Confessions of a Zealous Zebra-
I talk to a lot of chronic pain sufferers, whether that’s because I’m looking for advice, or they’re looking for advice from me. However, I always seem to end up seeing the same thing both externally and internally and it got me thinking.
Chronic pain sufferers struggle with self-worth.
Why is that?
Is it because we are worthless?
Is it because we lose our worth to these diseases?
We don’t have a self-worth problem.
Society has a self-worth problem.
My mind was blown.
So, let me explain. It’s not us. It’s them.
No, really. It’s not that we are worthless, but it’s how society views worth in the first place that makes us feel like we’ve lost what makes us valuable.
When we picture success, we think of fast cars, pots of money, a high-powered career, and fame.
But then I started thinking.
Does that really make you valuable?
Arguably yes, but also no. If you have a fast car, and pots of money, and a high-powered career, you probably also have a successful business behind you or a lot of influence within the construct of someone else’s. You’re providing a service, you have the power to create change, and help others less fortunate than you…
But what about tobacco companies, drug dealers, and oil companies? What about the people who are the picture of self-worth on Instagram, with their million dollar beach houses, but have stolen from others, whether that be money, health, or by creating messes on our planet in order to get there?
For me, thinking like this immediately made me reframe how I thought about self-worth.
You don’t need a million bucks to help someone less fortunate than you, when there are people all around you who need help crossing the street, mowing their lawns, or perhaps just some company for a change.
When I was first diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I felt like I’d lost all meaning. The career I’d worked tirelessly to pursue was no longer an option, my relationship dynamic was changing completely, meaning I couldn’t pull my weight anymore. I felt like a burden, a failure, and completely worthless.
Some days I still do.
Then this week I started to reframe how I think about self-worth.
I think a large part of the problem with the world today is that we equate our ability to make money with being valuable. We equate those who are rich, with those who have the greatest worth in society.
That is all damn wrong people.
ALL DAMN WRONG.
Some of the most influential people, the most valuable people in my life, barely have a roof over their heads let alone a Lamborghini. But it doesn’t matter. They are valuable to me because they are kind, they are empathetic, they are sweet, and funny, and brilliant. So why can’t I be so forgiving and look at myself this way, when its so easy to find the value in those around me?
Society is telling us that to be worth something we have to be grinding every hour of the day, and this leaves those of us with chronic illness feeling inadequate, and often depressed as all hell. It’s difficult when all we see day in and day out are the highlights of other people’s lives.
Social media is a large part of this, and honestly, I’m done. It’s kind of why I decided to start this Confessions of a Zealous Zebra section of my blog. Because honestly, someone has to tell the damn truth. Someone has to stand up for those of us who are living with invisible, chronic illnesses, and say… hey, I cried on the floor of my shower for two hours today and then got stuck because my legs were too weak from the heat.
My boyfriend had to lift me out of there like a towel burrito, and it was fucking humiliating.
Someone has to say this shit is okay. Better than okay. It’s fucking human, and it doesn’t make you worth less than anyone else.
Yes, I have crapped my pants because my medication made my body rebel like a pissed off Sith Lord, leaving me feeling embarrassed and shitty (pun intended HA- because if I can’t laugh at myself who fucking will?). Yes, I’ve gone a week without a shower because I couldn’t get out of bed and it was GROSS.
I am not a poster girl for perfection, but rather protesting for the imperfect.
Can we just cut the crap? Seriously?
Can we stop pretending that our lives are perfect online so that people realise that’s what valuable, what’s truly self-worth, is embracing yourself and your flaws. Embracing your humanity and saying… yes… I am 25 years old and a sneezed and peed my pants. Yes, my inner thighs look like a fucking war zone because of stretch marks. Yes, I do lie awake at night and wonder if I’ll wake up the next morning or internally decapitate myself in my sleep.
Yes, filters are great, but part of the reason we’re all so damn depressed is because we’re constantly being shown a world THAT DOESN’T EXIST and aspiring to reach it. Everyone has bad days, no matter how perfect they look or how much money they have.
What makes us valuable isn’t one single achievement, or any one thing, it is how we move through life, how we treat others, how freely we love, and what we can offer the world to make it less shit for everyone else. It’s about who we are at the core, not what job we have, how many loads of laundry we did, or if we managed to find the time to make those allergy friendly cookies for the school bake sale. We have to stop looking to money, to other people’s or society’s opinions, for what makes up our worth. We have to remember that we are enough, even if we are penniless, sick, or in a state of self-sabotaging depression.
Self-worth, as I am discovering, has to come from within, and that I think comes from knowing yourself and respecting what you have to offer. Nobody is allowed to decide what that is except for you. This is your life, and how you live it is nobody’s business but yours.
For those warriors out there, who like me suffer from chronic pain, you owe no one an explanation as to how you cope. You owe no one a justification as to why you don’t work, receive aid, or sleep twenty-two hours a day. You know who you are, what you need, and what your value is to those who truly care and know you intimately. Hold on to that, and fuck what society says, what Instagram says, what Facebook says, what your bank account is trying to make you believe.
Be you, apologetically, always. Because nobody in the world does it better and that in itself is priceless.
Zealous Zebra x