You are not your condition

How illness becomes our identity...

Having suffered with chronic ill health for 12 years I know all too well how the condition(s) can become all consuming.  Working in the field of chronic ill health in my private practice and listening to other peoples stories, I noticed a pattern.

Something that strikes me about most people who have a chronic health condition is that their condition begins to define them – it becomes their identity. I often hear people say, ‘I’m an anxious person’, ‘My illness controls me’, ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘I’m a depressive person’ and ‘I have accepted that my illness is who I am’. These, to me, are very negative sounding identity statements because even though you may have a condition or illness, it is NOT who you are. How does it feel differently if you were to say, ‘I have anxious episodes’, or ‘I am currently struggling with an illness’, or ‘I have depression’ or ‘My illness is just ONE aspect of me’? Health conditions and illness are challenges that we all must manage from time to time – most are transient but for some of us they become chronic. Why that is raises many other questions and is a topic for a separate blog.

There are many aspects that make us who we are including our values and beliefs, our education, the environment we grew up in, our family and social connections, our genetics and our mindset – all of these things influence who we are, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Most importantly, we can decide WHO we WANT to be. We all have unique personalities and having a health condition does not define our entire being. It can feel as though it is all we are and that we are defined by our illness, but we’re not…unless we choose to be. There is so much more involved and we have so much more to offer. You may also be a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, companion, professional, business owner and so much more. You may wear many different hats depending on the context you find yourself in and they are all still you.

Let me ask you something – Who were you before you became ill? Many people will describe themselves as confident, the life and soul, happy, assured, focused, driven and determined. These qualities don’t just disappear, although it can feel like that, they just get pushed aside as the illness becomes more of the focus. It is possible to find them again and still be you! Believe me, I know how hard this can feel and the thought of becoming well again can feel like climbing an insurmountable mountain…but it can be done. I remember the sheer joy of becoming well and looking in the mirror and seeing myself again for the first time in a long time. I can’t express the feeling of recognising myself and be able to say, ‘there she is – I missed you’.

Would you like to be you again? To feel free from your illness, to be back in control and living life on your terms? It begins with language – the words we use to describe ourselves and the thoughts we have. Identity (I AM) statements are a powerful tool that can change our view of ourselves both negatively and positively. Notice what you say to yourself and if you spot a negative identity statement, change it! The brain believes what we tell it so tell yourself you are confident, worthy, capable and so on. Only positive identity statements allowed. Now I’m not saying it’s an easy process or journey or that it is as simple as just changing our self-talk, but I do know that you can find yourself again too if you want to.   With the right guidance and support it’s remarkable what we can achieve. So how about it? 😊

If this resonates with you and you would like to explore more, please feel free to get in touch and let’s have a chat –

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    Photo Credit: Institute for Integrative Nutrition

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