Since becoming chronically unwell five years ago with systemic scleroderma, I had to quit my job. As my husband and friends work during the week, I spend more and more time by myself.
This means I have been forced into a situation that removes me from much of my contact with the “outside world” and exposure to people in general. Instead, I spend my time resting and avoiding overdoing anything, confined within the four walls of my house. I carefully calculate necessary outings with my husband to the supermarket or to important social occasions, and I only attempt these tasks when at my best.
Back when I worked full-time, the busy world provided an endless array of distractions that made self-reflection easily avoidable. The increasing amounts of solitary time have forced me to think about all manner of things at a much deeper level. (It’s important to balance thoughts and to recognize when overthinking has taken over. When I lean into overthinking, I generally watch some episodes of “Grace and Frankie” or listen to some music to distract myself.)
I have become a more self-aware person, and I believe this is also the case for many other chronically unwell patients. So, what exactly do I mean when I say “self-aware”? And why am I belting on about it in this week’s column? I believe that if we can monitor our own “inner world” — comprising our thoughts, emotions, and spirituality — then it is much easier to better understand ourselves. For me, that is what being self-aware is all about.
With a better self-understanding, I can handle myself much more effectively. Knowing what motivates me at a deep level means I can modify my resulting behavior if I must, or even make changes to things I believed for a long time but have decided are now outdated.
The fabulous consequence of all this enforced inner exploration is that I feel more comfortable with myself and more at peace with who I am.
Regarding coping with my disease, this sense of inner peace means I find I can allow myself to express my grief, disappointment, and anger more comfortably and accept the challenges scleroderma brings more readily. It also enables me to become more compassionate toward myself. After all, the better I get to know myself, the more I become my own best friend.
Examining one’s inner thoughts and feelings is pretty hard work. At times, I am pretty sure most of us don’t like some of the things we find hidden in our subconscious. However, with so much solitary time, I have found resistance is futile. I am beginning to appreciate the positive outcomes of self-reflection at this level.
I really do believe that using my newly-acquired alone time to engage in self-exploration has resulted in more balance when handling the enormous challenges that chronic unwellness presents.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.