Judgment is a social ill that many people with chronic illness must endure. People have said, “You’re not the same person,” “Snap out of it,” and of course, “You don’t look sick.” Most recently, referring to my irritability and need to regroup, someone asked where the old me had gone.
When living with chronic illness, judgment can be arduous. When those in your inner circle — the people who know what you’re going through — are the culprits, it is heartbreaking. This week’s column is to reiterate that judgment in any form is unacceptable. A book cannot be judged by its cover.
I once said that people will drag you through their fire and disappear in your storm. This is a sad, sobering truth. I cannot count the times I have been the listening ear, the voice of reason, and the shoulder to cry on, only to be met with criticism and ridicule. To pretend as if I am immune to such treatment would be specious. But my valley experiences are teaching me about humanity.
A proclaimed empath, I feel everything. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the ability to relate, to help others, and to show compassion. The curse is that my vulnerability leaves me open to ingenuous and insensitive people. My kindness is taken for granted. Candor is never for applause or accolades. It is to expose the naked truth behind adversity and illness.
Lessons never come easy. People don’t get it until they get it. When met with insensitive comments, I make an effort to let them pass through one ear and out the other. I tell myself that there are too many important things to focus on that demand my attention and energy. I remember that opinions don’t define me.
Thriving with chronic illness requires that we wear many hats. Great are the demands. If I must retreat for my sustenance and peace of mind, I have the right to do so. If I am in a difficult space mentally, I have the right to stay there as long as it takes to heal. If the concern is genuinely about my well-being, please pray for my strength and reserve judgment in my time of fragility. Remember that life is unpredictable. Ask yourself if you would be satisfied with the judgment you hold against others.
If you know someone who is struggling, offer a hand to hold or an ear to listen. If you cannot do that, please remain silent. Unknown battles are fought daily. You don’t know what you don’t know. Read the book without omitting chapters.
To anyone thriving and surviving chronic illness, liberate yourself from the judgment of others. The critics have no idea what you’re going through. You are tenacious and resilient even when you doubt yourself. Continue to honor your boundaries, do what is best for you and retreat when you must. Your peace is what matters most.
“Will you take the time to look
And read each chapter in my book?
See the hills and valleys I travel each day
Stand beside me until I find my way.”
— “Teresa’s Song” by Teresa Wright-Johnson
You are invited to follow my website at www.teresawrightjohnson.com.
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