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Chronic Snarkopolist: Chronic Illness is Not our Character

Post Published: 02 March 2011
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Category: chronic autoimmune conditions column, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 8 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

Last week I was reading a beautiful article written by ChemoBabe, Legacies, a regular blogger and women who has gotten through breast cancer. In her blog, she discusses character and illness.  She made it through her illness but her brother only two years earlier died of his. “I can’t speak for everybody. I can only speak for myself. I will tell you that the women I admire the most are the ones who flourish not because of their good attitude, but because of their unflinching honesty.”

I quote her here because she is a powerful blogger and a spokeswomen for honoring truth over the notion that our health is somehow linked to our character.  Many people have bought into the notion that if we behaved better we would somehow be healthier.  Or if we were more deserving we wouldn’t be chronically ill.  Even healthcare providers get caught up into this mindset.  They are so used to seeing patients who harm themselves every day they forget that sometimes health conditions are not self-inflicted.

Admittedly, I struggle with this. I’m going to the cardiologist soon for a chronic condition yet I love a friend who gave herself a heart condition from years of abuse to her body.  She needed help for it too but didn’t get the proper treatment. Sometimes even I have to heal from my own judgment. My health condition for my body failing is no more or less critical than for someone who needs it for other reasons. We are all in this together.

Sometimes I have anger inside when people are healthier than I am but who engage in a far unhealthier lifestyle.  I WANT TO BE HEALTHY!  I only wish my body would be so forgiving. Often I suffer from the backlash of internal beliefs that it is somehow a mark against my own character that I would be healthier if only I wanted to be.  Sometimes I think, like Pinocchio, if only I wished harder, I would somehow heal, the way he could turn into a real live boy.

We are so beautifully human too. We all are.  When others have problems or bad health, we say, “This isn’t YOUR FAULT, it is how life works.” But when WE have bad health and chronic illness we say to ourselves, “I should do better, I should be able to overcome this, I should be magic and be able to SMILE myself into health with my attitude and my charm and my wit.” We are, after all human. And we are not prone to rational thought no matter how brilliant we are.

I am no different. And I’m grateful to ChemoBabe for reminding me that it is no lack of my character that sometimes we bounce back from illness and sometimes we die, and sometimes we simply remain chronically ill for our entire lives and do our very best with what we’ve got.

What do you think? Do you do this too?  Do you allow others to have human frailty but expect yourself to be made of steel? Do you ask more of yourself because you WANT more from yourself? Do you ever run into judgment that puts chronic health conditions as a mark of character?  Tell me! I must know!

I’ll be back same time next week! Kiss kiss!

-Melissa

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8 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: Chronic Illness is Not our Character”

  1. GinaRClark says:

    YOU are brilliant, truthful, and fierce. I adore your posts.

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Thank you so much Gina! I’d love to hear your take on it you gorgeous soul.

      Thanks for the comment.

      xo
      Melissa

  2. @chemo_babe says:

    oh, sweet melissa. i am humbled and honored.

    i recognize this linking of character and illness because i have been suckered into believing the meritocracy of all of this myself. you are right to recognize that there are people whose behaviors lead them to ill health — but this relationship does not always generalize. it’s so hard, so so hard to remember. thanks for helping me do so. ♥

    • Melissa Travis says:

      I love you so much! I’m so grateful you’ve been here to shine the light on my path during so much of it!

      We are ALL in this together! Thank you for your beautiful, thoughtful blog during so much profound illness in your life.
      xoxo
      Melissa

  3. Amanda says:

    Excellent Melissa. While I truly believe our attitude and honesty about who we are helps us feel better… it does not actually heal. I still want to punch the person who tells me to “cheer up” when I am struggling. I am considered a “character”, and my illness has not changed that label one bit. It has however changed the frequency of my good days, people don’t like that I am not always the easy going person I once was. Walk a mile baby… walk a mile is all I say.

    Amanda

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Hey gorgeous Amanda,

      Thanks for letting us walk a mile with you! And yes- it is easier to tell people to suck it up then BE in their lives and actively listen and care and GIVE A SHIT. It always is. And it is easier to assume it is about THEM than realize that we’re all in this together and the human body and mind is subject to great health and illness in equal measure.

      THANK YOU for your insight and your beauty!
      xoxo
      Melissa

  4. Melissa Fairchild / @PrincessLilla says:

    Melissa…. LOVE this post! I can relate in just about every aspect.

    I believe that I am positive in general. Of course everyone has their moments, and I am absolutely no different. I have a big mouth and when I believe that anyone is being treated improperly, including myself, the whole world knows. I just can’t stop the words from coming out of my mouth.

    I know how it feels to feel not quite up to par, and wish that everyone could be healthy, happy and positive. (you know, like Disney… yes my children have made me all mushy like mashed potatoes).

    On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if I could be trying harder and could be healthier, as if I am supposed to be different from the rest of the population… to be able to take things with a grain of salt at all times and just keep on truckin, smiling through pain and pushing it into the background.

    *tapping skin, ouch! I’m not made of steel!* I am human. I guess I can live with that reality and enjoy, appreciate, and thank God for who I am. Who I am has brought me to you, honey bee.

    xoxo Melissa
    (PS- total brain foggy day, gosh, I hope what I wrote makes sense!)

  5. Dear Thyroid says:

    I love you so, Melissa. Brutal honesty, this is something you own completely and I respect you like mad for it.

    You raise points I haven’t even considered. I blame myself constantly. My character is so woven into my disease, that I have totally lost sight of where my disease ends and I begin. I HAVE WORK TO DO!

    Thank you for this post. You’re right – You’re sooooo right.

    Love,
    Katie

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