Last spring I wrote a post I called “How to Love Yourself When You Have a Chronic Illness.” In it I included a letter I had written to Richard M. Cohen, an author and award-winning journalist, in response to an article he had written for O – The Oprah Magazine. In his article, Cohen, who has had multiple sclerosis for 25 years and has had colon cancer twice, wrote that what he sees in the mirror disturbs him (I’m sure because of how having MS has changed how he looks), that he will never love himself, and that the idea of self-love seems mythical.
In my letter, I wrote that compassion is a form of love, and I suggested that Cohen give himself the same compassion that he would give to his wife or one of his children if they were facing the same serious health challenges that he is.
I reread that post recently and I saw that while my suggestion to Cohen was a good one, it didn’t go far enough. Here’s why:
Those of us with chronic illnesses deserve and need compassion, and I have found that my clients understand that and see that it makes sense to give themselves the same compassion they would give to someone they cared about who had a chronic illness.
But we also need and deserve to be loved. While we deserve compassion because of the challenges and pain we live with because of our illness, we deserve love (and need it) because we are human beings. Very few people love their children, parents, partners, or other loved ones any less if they (their children, parents, or partners) are diagnosed with a chronic illness. They don’t wonder if they are less deserving of love or less lovable. And you are not less deserving of love and no less lovable because you have a chronic illness.
So be as good to yourself as you would to someone you truly loved and give yourself lots and lots of loving and compassionate hugs.