Envy is a horrible negative emotion that comes with feelings of guilt, sadness and resentment. Having a chronic illness has often caused me to be green with envy at what “normal/healthy” people can do; they can exercise (they can run, swim, box, etc to their hearts content), they can sit comfortably without constantly fidgeting in pain, they can drive long distances, they can go out shopping all day, they can go out for endless dinners, the can party until the early hours and so on. But I can’t.
For years exercise was the thing I was envious of the most. Before I became ill, I was absolutely addicted to exercise! It was a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. I used to run, swim, box, go to spin classes you name it, I did it. It was the one thing that helped me relieve stress and forget about my worries. I used to be on cloud 9 when I finished exercising, it was great! So when that was suddenly taken away from me you can imagine how devastated I was. I hated it when friends and family talked about sport, went out and did sport, I refused to watch any sport on TV, it was all too heartbreaking. It was really hard to avoid all of this though as my whole family loves sport as much as me! My Mum and Dad, aunties and uncles, are all marathon runners! So I was surrounded by it all of the time.
Things changed however, when I started seeing a pain psychologist last April (2013). She was amazing – she changed my life really. She helped me to accept my condition and helped me deal with all of the emotions that come with it, including envy. All of the resentment and jealousy gradually diminished and I learnt to celebrate all of the things I could do rather than dwell on what I couldn’t. I was much happier and had a whole new perspective on life.
However, when I became very poorly in January this year with another chronic illness (suspected Lyme Disease), envy gradually crept back into my life. But this time I was not envious of others exercising as that no longer bothers me, but of others doing very small things such as girls my age wearing make up. I can just about manage to brush my hair and tie it up in the morning but I am too tired and I can’t concentrate enough to put make up on as well. Of others being able to go round to friends houses and have an enjoyable evening in. I am unable to do anything in the evening as I am too weak and fatigued and I am usually in bed by 9. Of others enjoying and afternoon of baking or cooking a meal for their partner or family, of others who can go to work, and others who can go for a Sunday morning stroll on the beach etc. I have been jealous of it all, and I have found myself slightly resenting those who can do those things. Not close friends as I know they appreciate being able to do those things but more distant friends and strangers who to me, take the small things for granted.
But I am trying so hard to practise the strategies I was taught by my psychologist to keep those feelings at bay as I know otherwise I will develop a lot of anger which is not helpful. Things I have found to help reduce feelings of envy:
Talk to a close friend or family member about how you are feeling
I have the most amazing and supportive friends, family and boyfriend. I am very very lucky! I know I can talk to any of them about things I am struggling with and they will do their best to help. Quite often I shut myself away and don’t talk to anyone when I am going through a really tough time, but I have found that that isn’t always the best way to deal with things… And that talking things through really does help!
Have a break from Facebook
No one wants to see everyone else doing the things they want so desperately to be able to do but can’t. It’s strange because I am genuinely so happy for my friends and family but at the same time it’s really hard to watch everyone get on with their lives while mine is on hold. So when I am struggling with envy I have a little break from FB.
Get in touch with someone who is going through something similar
I have a good friend who is also suffering from a chronic illness. I know that talking to her always makes me feel better as its amazing to have someone that can really relate to how I am feeling. Her blog is fantastic please check it out… http://freckles-and-all.blogspot.co.uk/
Count your blessings
When I am we’ll enough to do something small, for example, go out for a coffee, or have a look around a shop in the wheelchair, I feel very lucky and appreciate it so much! “Good” days are few and far between at the moment so when I am able to go out it feels fantastic! Also when I am able to do something crafty I.e. make someone a card, or do a little sketch, or when I am able to bake or help cook, I am always proud of myself for these achievements.