Being sick is not a failure

Being sick is not a failure. I have to tell myself this most days. It has become my new mantra.

Instead of pursuing my limitless potential for health and wellness I am trying to accept my limited experience in living with chronic illness and the very real presence and impact it has on my body and my psyche.

In order to accept myself I have had to accept my chronic illness. This has meant challenging many assumptions I have held about illness and about being sick.

These assumption have included things like

  • if you really want to be better you can be,
  • illness can be magicked away with positive thinking or the right affirmation.
  • health is about having the right attitude and positive thinking

Influenced by metaphysical healing part of me believed that if I could identify and clear the emotion or the negative thinking behind my illness I would get better.  Well no, that is simply not the case. This was reinforced by my circle of friends and the many alternative health practitioners I have seen over the years.

I thought that if only I meditate enough, try hard enough, eat the right food, avoid the wrong food, work on my spiritual development, take herbs and supplements, have acupuncture, chiropractic, cranial-sacral therapy, kinesiology, energy balances, and so on, then surely I would get better. I did not, I have not. In my mind to remain ill was tantamount to failure, to not believing enough, or not trying hard enough. To remain ill was shameful.

I had a lot of faith in alternative treatments and therapies, I wanted them to help, and most of the time practitioners told me they would. Each seemed very confident that their modality was the one that would make the difference. And it rarely has, not over the long term anyway. And Western medicine hasn’t helped much either- however its pragmatism has been more emotionally supportive than I realised it could be. The neurologists have never really offered much hope, being somewhat circumspect about options, diagnosis and possible treatments. Their aim has simply been to see if symptoms can be improved and the frequency of episodes reduced. Likewise my GP encourages me to not get ahead of myself. She tempers my desire for a remedy with a somewhat wry smile. Yet she knows I am goal orientated and that I like to feel proactive- even if the outcome doesn’t really change. So we share a joke or two, fiddle at the margins with medication dosages and really that is it.

And really that is it. I have a chronic illness, it persists.  And yes, I want to be better but more importantly I want to never again feel like a failure because I am sick.

5 thoughts on “Being sick is not a failure

  1. I have experienced all of this also over many ears of chronic illness. It’s unhelpful, expensive, and demoralising. The notion that being ill is a sign of weakness or personal failure is still far too prevalent and I have no doubt this magical belief system negatively impacts on employment opportunity for people with disability.
    Great blog post, thankyou!


  2. All the striving is so difficult and leaves me feeling so weary. I get so caught up on the next symptom, treatment, and all associated research that I often find myself lost in some fiction. Lately, I’ve had a desire to just be and experience my illness in a non-cognitive place. I wonder what it might try to tell me if I’m not trying so hard all the time? Thank you for reminding us that it is not our fault. Instead, let’s take the opportunity to learn about ourselves, without all of the judgements, as you suggest above. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on shame and how it interacts with your illness and life in general.


    1. Caroline your comments really connect with me- I am often feeling caught between wanting to DO more to GET better, and trying to just accept myself, and my body as it is and I am. I am currently reading Brene Browns’ Daring Greatly- which is all about vulnerability, shame and wholehearted living. It is so very relevant and I am sure I will have more to share on this soon.


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