I try to be careful about the things I think. Mostly because I do believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, which an article in Psychology Today explains simply as “a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it is already true.” According to the article, “Our expectation that we will see a particular outcome changes our behavior, which shapes the way others see us. In turn, others provide the feedback we’ve set ourselves up to get, which serves to reinforce the original belief.” The idea that the way a person sees himself or herself affects his or her behaviour and how others perceive them and in turn respond to them is something I’ve witnessed my entire life. It’s also something I’ve experienced, which has influenced the way I conduct myself when interacting with others and the image of myself I project for people around me to see.
The unfortunate thing with believing in self-fulfilling prophecies when you’re chronically ill is that it causes – at least for me – a great degree of added stress and anxiety. Even though I’m extremely ill, I find myself, quite often, trying to act better than I feel even though the chances of that making me feel better are slim. I always make the effort to be well-groomed and dressed when I go out – to make sure people can’t see how ill I really am –, even to doctors’ appointments where I’ve had at least one doctor comment on how well I always put myself together. I know that acting as if you’re not ill when you are may sound silly, but psychologically and emotionally it helps to keep me from falling too deeply into depression. It also helps me not feel pity for myself and rarely gives other people an opportunity to engage with pity for me or to treat me gingerly. However, acting healthy or completely well, when you’re not does take a toll on you; and I think, after just a few days into the visit with my cousins, I’m starting to feel it.
Yesterday, I posted about my cousins who arrived on Sunday for a two-week visit. They’ve only been here for two full days, but my body is already feeling the effects of acting as their host. On Sunday when we got home from the airport, we rested for a few hours, and then I made us a light meal for dinner. Not much for someone who is well but a lot for me. Yesterday, we spent most of the day at home because of the extreme hot weather we’re experiencing at the moment and to give them some downtime to adjust to the time difference and recover from jet lag. Then later in the afternoon, we went out to run an errand that didn’t take very long but involved taking a taxi, briefly walking through the local shopping mall, and a short walk home to give my cousins a chance to see the neighbour and get familiarized with it so they can go out without me when they choose. When we returned home, I cooked dinner for us, not giving any thought to the less-than typical day of activity I’d already had.
Well, here we are today. Not out on the day-trip I had planned for us because my legs, pelvis, hips, and back feel like they are on fire. This was part of the reason I had so much anxiety about them coming to visit. I know this isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it might be whatever the flip side of one would be. By not acting as if I’m ill and not taking my limits into consideration as I move about every day while my cousins are visiting I will cause myself more pain. Therefore, I have to be willing to admit, to myself most of all that I am ill and can’t do as much as they can do every day. I have to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with taking pity on myself for the purpose of self-care, or having others step in to do the things I can’t because all that means is that I’m taking more care of myself. But most importantly, I have to fully accept that I am ill so that when the extra pain kicks in, as it has today, I don’t get angry with myself or feel betrayed by my body.
One of my close friends who knows me well, especially how hard I find asking for help even when I need it, has taken my cousins out for the afternoon to give me some time to rest. I’m very grateful for his help and unspoken understanding. Being on my own for these few hours, I’m realizing that the longer I’m ill and the more I resist acting as if I am, the harsher the reminders I’ll receive from my body. As often as I’ve said in the past that I accept what is happening to me, it seems that I’m still quite a distance away from that being the reality.
Muse – Resistance