Who am I now? Losing your identity to chronic illness

Chronically ill people are often criticised as “making their whole identity about their illness.” Whether or not this is true, it’s an unfair criticism, because so much of our identity gets stolen when we become sick.

When I was healthy and able bodied, and even when I was sick but still working full time, I defined myself by my work. “I’m a scientist” or “I’m an academic” or “I’m an administrator” or “I’m a manager.” Sometimes I defined myself by my hobbies: “I’m a singer,” “I’m a jewellery maker,” “I’m a weight lifter.”

When I found I could no longer work, I felt really lost and untethered. Who was I now that I didn’t have a job? When I realised I could no longer (safely) sing, I became a ‘Former Singer’ instead of a singer. Even ‘friend’ is becoming hard to maintain at the moment.

I would like to think of myself as an artist, a writer, or a dress maker, but every time I find a new hook on which to hang my sense of self, the illness comes along and removes it.

So what is left? My illness. The jealous (and abusive) mistress that she is, she won’t allow me to entertain any others, so I resist giving myself any other labels for fear that she’ll destroy those too.

Maybe if I don’t draw attention to the things I can still do, she won’t take those.

Or maybe, if I hang my entire being from her hook, she’ll accidentally destroy that one too.

Shhhhh. Don’t tell her.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s