Self-Judgment: A Silent Symptom of Chronic Illness

Author: Sairy Franks

Recently I took a week off of Lyme treatment to prepare for a trip. This was a huge decision. I was only willing to do it because it felt crucial, as I have hardly been able to leave the house for over a year and have been in intensive treatment for 7 months. I spent the only money I have getting gear delivered overnight so I wouldn’t miss my window of opportunity to go. Then the next morning I became very sick and delayed the trip for several days on end, trying to force myself to be well enough each day. I made these difficult sacrifices for the sake of my mental health, but as it turned out was physically unable to go. My partner also missed their chance to go while we waited for me to feel well enough so they could’t even go without me.

My partner is a bottomless pit when it comes to love and compassion, but I noticed I was berating myself for wasting money, time I could have been in treatment, and for wasting my sweet love’s days off. I hadn’t reached toward a goal that big in a long time, and it fell through. At a time that I really needed self-love the most, I was wrapped up in self-judgment and it got me thinking about the more subtle ways it sneaks up from one day to the next.

Sometimes I blame myself for symptoms that I experience, rather than blaming the illness itself. Usually I do this without even realizing it. I am constantly assessing if I can associate symptoms with something I did or didn’t do. And when I decide it was caused by something I did or didn’t do – even though my perception is often not the truth – I sometimes scrutinize myself with the false belief that I made myself sick. That’s not something I even believe in truth. However being so physically sensitive to everything while living in a culture that is filled with doctors that don’t believe in your illness and a culture that promotes manifestation and self-blame, I can find myself having some pretty nonsensical, inaccurate, and shaming thoughts. Often they even conflict with one another. It’s like I can’t win when my thinking turns this way. I can do everything right and still make myself wrong. Things like:

“If you really wanted to do this badly enough you would be able to do it.”

“You should have known better than to turn over onto your side if you didn’t want the room to start spinning.”

“You shouldn’t have tried to brush your teeth this early in the morning. You know that makes you dizzy. You just wasted your whole day.”

“You’re doing this to yourself. If you didn’t want to feel sick you shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.”

“Well, what did you expect? You know better than to look down, or up, or any direction other than straight ahead if you don’t want to be dizzy.”

“If you didn’t want to spend the day in bed you should have stayed in bed longer this morning before getting up. You know getting up too fast can make you dizzy.”

“If you wanted to spend the day out of bed you should have gotten up more quickly. You know staying in bed too long can make you feel dizzy.”

“You know that stress makes all the symptoms worse…you shouldn’t let things stress you out.”

“You shouldn’t have closed your eyes while you were resting. You know that can make things worse.”

“People are tired of hearing about this and think you are self-absorbed, negative, and annoying. You probably shouldn’t talk about this even though it’s hard because it’s unfair to ask people to be supportive too often.”

“I am a waste of space today.”

“How will I ever be able to financially support myself if I can’t even change positions in bed? I am such a burden.”

“You are so much luckier than so many people. Who do you think you are to experience so much suffering?”

And the list goes on as I attempt to accomplish the smallest of feats. If I overheard someone else talking to another person or themselves this way I would be horrified. I would run up with tears streaming down my face and hug them and say “It’s not your fault for being sick just because you exist.” And yet, these whispers of self-judgment live in my own head and go under my radar if I don’t pay careful attention. I have made great strides and am gentle with myself much of the time, but not always.

The chains of dizziness have held me down for much of the past 16 years. The truth is that I’m doing a great job. And although you may suffer different symptoms or causes you are doing a great job, too. We deserve love always. Never less. Always more. No matter what. Know that I accept you even when you can’t accept yourself.

*Need/Request: please don’t tell me to be positive. I am doing a great job. And I am working to reduce judgment, not increase it, whether directed at me from within or without. Which is pretty positive if you ask me 🙂 Feel free to tell me I am doing a great job. Or that you struggle, too. Or both. Just don’t tell me I am doing this wrong. Thank you!*


3 thoughts on “Self-Judgment: A Silent Symptom of Chronic Illness

  1. You are doing a great job! You have so much positivity inside of you and it shines out. You are never a waste of space.

    On Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 7:10 PM, The Oak in the Acorn wrote:

    > Sairy Franks posted: ” Recently I took a week off of Lyme treatment to > prepare for a trip. This was a huge decision. I was only willing to do it > because it felt crucial, as I have hardly been able to leave the house for > over a year and have been in intensive treatment for 7 mo” >


  2. Self judgment has plagued me ever since I got sick with Lyme. The disease itself with it’s psychiatric symptoms and its disabling effects seems to provide a perfect environment for self judgment to bloom. I too often begin doing it before I even notice, and the sicker I am the more intense the judgment becomes. So, I get it!


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