Chronic Illness & Mercy Epiphany

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

Jack Kormfield

I was later than many in my generation to begin using social media – I didn’t understand the purpose of Facebook until I moved, leaving my family and friends a country away as I began married life to a service member on the opposite side of the country. When I first established my Facebook account, the above quote was one which I would have considered a guiding principle in my life.

And, somewhere along the way, I forgot my guiding principle.

It’s easy to forget – I could make excuses all day long about our culture, the pressure to keep up with others, the (often times, self-driven) pressure to maintain a semblance of normalcy, and the desire to ensure that everything goes according to my plans.

But, the excuses are not the point.

Chronic Illness&MercyEpiphany

I had a tooth extracted this last Thursday. My mouth is still bugging me, easily controlled with Acetaminophen, but I have had several people tell me how they bounced back after their own dental procedures. And, I have been beating myself up because my body is not bouncing back.

In fact, my autoimmune issues have seemed to flare in a manner I haven’t seen in a long time. Muscular exhaustion, which I can now accurately liken to walking around having just come out of sedation; cognitive impairment which renders the simplest conversation, even with small children, difficult; joint pain in my hips, making me inwardly cringe at the thought of going upstairs. When complaining to my husband, who has no history of needing any dental work, how I don’t understand how I can be barely functioning four days later, he accurately surmised my stress-level heading into the oral surgery, and the after-effects of sedation have led my body to have a CFS crash.

Yesterday, I wrote about mercy – and when I awoke in the middle of the night to feed my youngest, my guiding principle hit me squarely in the chest.

I have spent the better part of four days now trying to meet this unattainable level of normalcy – bouncing right back after a minor oral surgery procedure.

But, for me, there isn’t normal. And, for my body, it wasn’t a minor procedure!

I have been trying to pretend everything is normal, beating myself up as the dinner doesn’t get made, the dishes don’t get washed, the toys don’t get picked up, and the laundry doesn’t get washed. Instead, I’ve been focusing on the basic needs of my children – feeding them boxed food, changing diapers or wiping butts, allowing them far too much screen time than recommended for small children by the APA, trying to lazily play Ryder to their “Chase” and “Marshall” characters, and resorting to my husband doing the laundry.

When the quote came to me in the middle of the night, I realized I was not being compassionate with myself…

I have forgotten I have limitations to my physical health!

I have forgotten I have a lower threshold of tolerance to medication, even basic ones such as Acetaminophen!

I have forgotten how something so innocuous to others can so drastically and radically alter my ability to function “normally!”

I have forgotten to extend compassion and mercy toward myself!

I’m not writing this post for anyone to feel sorry for me…

Instead, I’ve finally realized what the issue is, and I will focus on tackling it – I need to go back to basics and give myself some compassion. I need to stop comparing myself to others, and remind myself that sometimes, when battling chronic autoimmune issues, my pain tolerance and my reaction to medication are more heightened than the average, healthy individual. I will need to allow myself, after grocery shopping this week, to take the time needed to rest – and not beat myself up for doing the bare minimum to keep my household running. I need to rescind offers to reach out and help others with activities, knowing that something as small as a conversation is taking far too much energy from what little I already have to give my children.

And, I will need to be okay with the slower pace of life.

Jack Kormfield Quote

As a mother, I can’t be everything to everybody. There comes a time where I have to recognize my limitations, and model self-compassion to my children. I have to let myself off the hook, and recognize I can only do so much. If mothers aren’t willing to be merciful toward ourselves, and we aren’t able to be compassionate to ourselves from time to time, how can we fully extend compassion and mercy to others?

So, now I recognize – I have to be willing to allow myself some time to step back.

After all, it is the merciful thing to do…

37 thoughts on “Chronic Illness & Mercy Epiphany

  1. Step back and realized that you are also burning the candle at both ends when you are well. Take time for YOU, and let others care of things outside your home for a time. There is a saying that goes something like this: “…the dust and chores can wait. They will still be there when the kids have grown and gone.” Sit back and enjoy watching them grow and learn and become independent while you heal. How many times have you encouraged your clients to take care of themselves first? Sending hugs .

    1. Thanks! I agree – I do need to take care of myself. I just took my health for granted this past week, and I’m now realizing I shouldn’t have!

  2. Oh, Anni. I’m sorry it’s been so hard for you! I wish we could have traveled to see you. Let me know if I can help from afar.

    1. Thank you! I just need to clear my calendar through this next week – and, just lie low for the week. And give myself permission to cancel getting together with people – that is the most difficult thing for me… the canceling or having to change plans. That’s where I need to focus on being compassionate to myself… for the sake of the kids and my husband! 😊

  3. This trial could be a blessing to help you enact that lesson of compassion toward yourself, and to remind your readers of it as well. I pray that God restores you.

    1. Thank you!! And, I agree – I think it is a gentle, heaven-sent reminder to be compassionate toward myself. It has been *years* since I last thought of that statement, and every time my daughter woke me up overnight, it popped into my head. Which is why I knew I needed to write something… because I am sure there is someone else who struggles (maybe with autoimmune issues, maybe not) who needs to also be reminded that it is okay to be compassionate with themselves, too!

      Thank you for the prayers! 😊

      1. Last year my midwife looked me in the eyes as she was saying goodbye after a prenatal appt. and (seemingly out of context) said, “Be kind to yourself.” That gentle command struck me like a revelation. She probably saw a sadness deep down and the source of it that I could not. I for years had been focusing on outward compassion that I perhaps didn’t realize it was depleted for lack of self-compassion! Heaven-sent reminders are amazing and I tear up thinking of God’s love for us.

  4. “As a mother, I can’t be everything to everybody. There comes a time where I have to recognize my limitations, and model self-compassion to my children. I have to let myself off the hook, and recognize I can only do so much. If mothers aren’t willing to be merciful toward ourselves, and we aren’t able to be compassionate to ourselves from time to time, how can we fully extend compassion and mercy to others?”

    I really love this final paragraph! I’ve run myself so ragged caring for my kids, that I can’t even care for them any more! It’s so important to know our limitations, and take care of ourselves so we can reach out to others. Thank you for this reminder.

    Also, praying for you!

    Jesus, please be with my friend Anni today. Bless her abundantly for having the strength and courage to share her struggles with others and uplift us through her painful experiences. Please ease her pain, help speed her healing, and continue to give her the patience and compassion she needs to heal at her own pace. Thank you for the gift of her inspiring words, bless her in return! Amen.

    1. Amen…

      And, thank you! I’m glad that last paragraph resonated – it was the only way I could figure out how to make that connection that any mom (regardless of whether or not they have a chronic illness) needs to grant themselves compassion and mercy at times!

  5. This is just so great! And I don’t have to have a chronic illness to appreciate it either! We ALL need to give ourselves a break when we need it, especially mothers–no one is going to give us a break if we don’t take one (or at least let it be know we need one!). I am so sorry that you’ve been feeling glad, but happy that you are giving yourself permission to take it slow for awhile.

    1. I agree – we all need to give ourselves a break… and, more importantly, not feel guilty for taking one! Thanks for the affirmation!

  6. This is a GREAT post! My husband has been constantly reminding me, after my surgery, that my healing timetable is my own and I cannot compare myself to the gal who bounced right back and made it back to church two weeks later and actually sat on the hard wood pews.
    Take the time your body needs to heal! You have a lot to deal with. Cut yourself some slack! Don’t worry what others think or say… only need to concern yourself with what God thinks. I am pretty sure He would tell you He made you the way He did and you will heal in His time.

    1. Your husband is a wise man!! Be sure to listen to him. 😊

      And, thank you for the words of wisdom and encouragement, too!! They are definitely appreciated! Keeping a smooth recovery for you in prayers!

      1. For you also! Take the time to heal on His timetable.
        I made it back to church this past week and it was wonderful! For those of us healing from various things they now have padded chairs in the back…..that was also wonderful.

      2. Yay for the padding!! It’s good to hear they’re accommodating those that need that luxury – our chapel has padded pews right now, but the church up the road does not. Padding is always useful!

  7. Beautifully put, Anni! I’m recovering from a broken ankle/fibula and my eyes have been opened to how different life is for those who constantly struggle with pain. Thank you for your reminder to show mercy to myself. I will offer up my prayers for you today!

    1. Thank you so much, Becky! And, I will pray your ankle/fibula heals as quickly as possible… and, that you remember to show yourself some mercy. I think when we are “able” for so long, and then get side-lined so quickly, it’s even more difficult to slow down! But, it is also extremely important…

      Thanks for stopping in!

  8. Wow, this is so on time for me! I need my wisdom teeth out ASAP and I have 7 kids. I’ve been worried sick about the time period after the surgery. Talk about total chaos. I will read this again when I’m scheduled. Thanks a million!!!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful! Just keep in mind – if you don’t recover the next day, don’t beat yourself up the way I did!

      I pray your wisdom teeth removal will go smoothly!

  9. Yesterday all I had was a cleaning…and I still haven’t gotten over it! You are like Superwoman all the time!!!! You deserve all the time for healing you need and want!!!❤

    1. Thank you so much! I’m not Superwoman all the time… but, I’m learning a thing or two about how to be more effective at my vocation as a wife, and my avocation as a mom – part of that is giving myself a reprieve and slowing down my pace!

      I hope you relax now, post-cleaning… I’ve got an orthodontist appointment I need to schedule, but have nothing else planned before my next cleaning in October. I’ll be nice and happy for the down time after the Ortho appointment (to see if they’ll replace a permanent retainer, or since I have now lost three teeth – two wisdom, one molar – if they’ll just take out the retainer which broke last year).

  10. There is such truth to this. I’m quick to show compassion to others, but not to myself.

    Thank you for sharing about the diagnosis you face– definitely a “hidden disability.” Prayers that you are feeling better soon. <3

    1. Thank you! Today (1 week and 1 day) has been the best “functioning” day I have had! Who knew it would take that long?!

  11. Bingo. Well-said. There’s a measure of wisdom in learning to live with limits. – – – Something we all do, although the limits are different for each of us.

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