January 26, 2018

Your Illness Does Not Define You

On Friday morning I gave a talk about how your illness does not define you and that reminded me of something I used to really struggle with. When I first got diagnosed with psoriasis, and for about 16 years after that, I deeply believed that my illness was what defined me.  Getting it at such a young and developmental age it became a huge part of my personality. The way I dressed, the friends I made, the food I ate and so on were all determined by my skin condition. So of course I felt it was what made me, me!

It wasn’t until years later after doing a lot of introspective work on myself that I realized that my illness does not define me or who I am. At all. Sure it has shaped me in moments and has pushed me countless times.  It is a beautiful compass and teacher in my life and shows me where to go and when to stay still. But there are a hundred other qualities, attributes and life experiences that makeup who Nitika is. Ya feel me?

As I spoke to this audience on Friday I was filled with such a deep sense of pride and humility all at once.  How humbling is it to acknowledge that although our chronic conditions can be a huge part of our daily lives, they do not have to have power over every aspect of them? Also feeling pride that I was at a place in my life where I could own that authentically which wasn’t always the case.

It took me years to understand that I wasn’t my disease. Sometimes it was hard for me to embrace that because of the attention I would get from being sick (more on that in another post!) and other times it felt devastating to separate my identity from the crippling pain I was in which was constantly shaking me to my core. If you’re in that place right now, where it is hard to see your condition as separate from you, just know I completely get it and you are not alone.

One thing that really helped me was actively asking myself what I liked and didn’t like. I started doing this after I got divorced at 24 and realized the only thing I felt like I really knew about myself was that I was sick. To be honest it felt pretty silly at first but I slowly started to get really into it! Are you up for giving it a try? Some of the questions I started with are below.

I would ask….

What’s your favorite color?

What’s your favorite thing about yourself?

What’s your favorite food?

What type of fashion do you love?

What’s your favorite song?

Where do you want to travel to?

What’s been one of the happiest moments in your life so far?

What do you LOVE to do for fun with friends?

What’s your favorite sport or extra-curricular activity?

And the list just kept going from there. Again, these questions might seem trivial but it really allowed me to be in total discovery mode and curiosity with myself and I started to have a lot of fun with it.

I learned that I love Janet Jackson, my favorite color is green, I am a sucker for gluten free-tomato free-dairy free pizza (yes it’s a thing and not gross!), I am a singer, an activist, and entrepreneur and when I feel really comfortable with someone my goofy side comes out which is kind of my favorite. I also happen to be a psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patient.

Now it’s your turn! I absolutely love seeing your comments on the blog, like they literally make me so happy and it fulfills me on such a deep level to know that this content is resonating with you. Can you relate to this weeks post? What ways do you keep yourself grounded and allow yourself to not feel that your condition defines you? Let me know below!

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  • Blair Badenhop

    I love this so much! It’s a great reminder that we’re made of so much more than any identity we’ve given ourselves or been given by others. Thanks for sharing, Nitika <3

    • Nitika

      Yes!! Exactly. Thanks so much for commenting + love you so much Blair!! xx

  • Carly

    Totally understand. Somehow when I was younger, I would always find myself telling people I had Crohn’s before anything else, like that was what defined me because I had made so many choices based on that diagnosis. Crohn’s was the reason I couldn’t eat this or that, Crohn’s was the reason I couldn’t travel out of the country, Crohn’s was the reason my work was late or why I couldn’t show up, etc. I noticed it popping up as an excuse for not doing or avoiding things, and now that I am so much more mindful of that, I have really changed the way I talk to people about my illness. Thanks for speaking out! Would love to talk more about chronic illness!

    • Nitika

      Omg yes EXACTLY Carly!! That’s what I used to do too! I always say that you could see my illness just by the way I was being, even if you didn’t see my skin. I was just always holding on tightly to being a sick person and I would basically say my conditions before I would even say my own name. So interesting how so many people do this and we just didn’t know any different. Good for you for changing your outlook, I love that. Sending love your way! xx

  • Chris Guyon

    The hardest part for me was simply realizing that my illness was not in-fact just me.

    I remember watching a video on what it was like to live with depression and the light-bulb going off of “wait, you mean these things aren’t just personality traits?”

    Labels help, at least for me. I now know what hurdles I’m facing, I’m not just leaning back and taking a wave of sadness right in the face. That’s been helpful. But I’m not my label. I still suffer from depression, but I’m not depression, it doesn’t own me anymore. I’m me, and I’m not alone in my fight.

    Two years, two more diagnoses of invisible illnesses later. The surgery to correct the apnea, and medication to correct the hormone imbalance and my fog is lifting. Every day I’m becoming more… me.
    And for the first time in a while. I’m actually excited.

    • Nitika

      Thank you SO much for sharing Chris. This part – “Every day I’m becoming more… me. And for the first time in a while. I’m actually excited.” – gave me total chills. I am so excited for you and am in awe of your strength. Keep it up! Sending you so much love xx

  • Angela

    This spoke to me because in the past few weeks I have realized that my disease (depression and anxiety) has caused me to put on a total facade to hide it from everyone, that I am not sure who I am underneath it. I need to figure that out.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Nitika

      I totally hear you Angela. Thank you so much for sharing where you are at. It’s a blessing that you are starting to see that there is so much to you, underneath the weight of your condition. Sending you and your body so much love xx

  • Ava McCoy

    Wow. This is something I wish I had done years ago. I learned to get to know me after my divorce (my kids father) and it took about of trial and error. I remember thinking “I’m a mom, that’s about it”. This is something I can still implement to get to know me even better, and not just my list of illnesses or mourning, or mommy time etc. Thank you for all you share ♥

    • Nitika

      Thank you for this comment, Ava! There’s no better time than right now to discover your true self. I promise it’s not too late. And I was inspired to really dig deeper into this after my divorce, so I get how that can be a powerful catalyst. Sending you so much love! xxx

  • Ashley Comstock

    Hello Nitika! I just listened to your talk in IIN! I loved it so much I found your website to take a look. I too struggled with a chronic skin condition (eczema) for most of my 20s. It really was challenging to not feel like my condition defined me, especially when that’s all anyone noticed when they saw me. It wasn’t “Hi Ashley, so excited to see you how was your summer?” It was always, “OMG, your skin looks so painful!” Some maybe thought I liked this attention, but no, it was so annoying! Especially when you are just trying to focus on work and get through the day! I am happy to say that after a year, thanks to applying the medical medium information (love him), I no longer have chronic eczema! My joy is restored and I no longer plan my day around my skin condition. I could probably write a book, but I guess I will save it for my own website. Thanks for inspiring me today with your talk!

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