Quotes about self-care, especially self-care quotes about invisible illness, are hard to come by. Well, good ones at least– you can find sappy schlock everywhere. But there are also gems, little bits of wisdom that remind me to take time for myself, helping me through the chronic pain of my invisible illnesses. Click one in the gallery below or scroll down to read a few of my favorites: where they come from, why I chose them, and what they mean to me.
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“If you are gentle with yourself, you will become gentle with others.” -Thubten Yeshe
If you’re anything like me, you’re way too hard on yourself. I’ve always been a type-A person, and I end up kicking myself when I fail to do something.
One thing I’ve been working on a LOT is trying not to insult myself or put myself down. I didn’t realize how often I was doing that until someone close to me started pointing it out!
Be gentle when you speak to yourself. Give yourself the grace you would give a best friend or a family member. Remember that you’re trying, and that you’re dealing with a difficult set of challenges that most people know nothing about.
“Some days, 24 hours is too much, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-sized pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness.” – Regina Brett
Chronic pain and mental health struggles can feel like an elephant sitting squarely on your chest while you struggle to get everything done that needs to get done. But as the saying goes, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The only way out is through! And as Regina Brett describes here, the only way through is by tackling challenges bit by bit, however and whenever you can. Speaking of…
“To be nobody-but-yourself– in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else– means to fight the hardest battle that any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings
Raise your hand if you find yourself comparing your life to those of the “normal” people around you! Hell, a ton of people struggle with this, disabled and not.
If you’re not familiar with e.e. cummings, “100 Selected Poems” is a fantastic place to start. He is one of my favorite poets of all time and you owe it to yourself to see what he has to say. This quote came from a text entitled “A Poet’s Advice to Students,” published in a small Michigan newspaper a few days before the poet turned 59. (Check out the Marginalian’s take on it!)
Of course this is more than a quote about self care, it’s an assessment of the human condition and the constant fight each of us must fight. It’s true for everyone, though those of us with disabilities have a rougher road.
If life is a race, those of us with chronic health issues may start farther back and get stuck in the outside lane. But to lean on the metaphor, we can still drive fast and far, sing along to the radio and find joy in the process.
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” -John Wooden
Speaking of “fighting the daily battle to live and do as much as possible despite whatever chronic pain or mental health BS I’m dealing with”! This quote puts a target on something that’s really difficult for me.
I was in high school when my invisible illnesses & chronic pain began, and suddenly, so many of the careers I’d considered were off the table, no matter how good I might have been at some parts of the job. That roundly sucked (and, let’s be honest, continues to!)
At the same time, I love what I do now so damn much! And I’ve been able to do so much I dreamed about, and so much I’m proud of.
So what good does it do me to pine for what might have been? Better to take that energy, those spoons, and put it towards a goal I can achieve. (Speaking of, need a writer, podcast guest or webinar host?) But of course, I fully admit that this is all easier said than done.
“What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.” – Carl Rogers
“Yet I find that when I can accept myself as I am, then I change. It is a puzzling paradox. The moment I accept myself as I am, then I can begin to be myself. We have got to learn to accept ourselves before we can begin to change. This means accepting ourselves where we are at this moment. It means accepting our assets and our liabilities, our trials and our challenges, our joys and our sorrows. What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly. What I am is good enough if I would only see it clearly. Then growth can begin – growth into tomorrow – because I have no need to distort today. I can be free to see it clearly and accept it honestly. I can see both my strengths and my weaknesses. Being what I am is good enough for growth, but so often I cannot accept the deepest thing that I am. When I can accept that, change begins.”– Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy
Figure out who you are and do your best to own it. Own your problems, your triumphs, own the plateau and the grind, own your public bio and your private 2 AM pleadings to the universe. Having a disability does not make you any less “good enough.” In fact, the struggle and the lessons we learn make many of us better. Speaking of..
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and found their way out of the depths… Beautiful people do not just happen.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
I honestly don’t know that I have much to add to this one besides “ain’t that the truth?!” I think this is especially true when you’re young, because it feels like you’re the only one with chronic health issues. (You’re not!)
The people I like best are those who have been through some shit and come out the other side stronger for it. There are lessons you can’t learn except through adversary, and while I’d never wish that on someone, it’s unfortunately common enough to not need to. Find the people who understand, whose grace under fire you admire, and keep them close.
“If your heart is a volcano how shall you expect flowers to bloom in your hands?” – Kahlil Gibran
I love Kahlil Gibran. In fact, I used one of his quotes on my previous post of inspiring quotes about invisible illness. Sand and Foam was very important to me in high school and the Prophet, his best-known work, is also fantastic.
Chronic pain and disability advocates don’t talk enough about grief, and the anger that goes hand in hand with grief for the person we used to be, the person we could have become. Of course you feel long-simmering rage at the unfairness of it all! It is incredibly unfair. But you’re not the only one grieving the life–and the you–that might have been.
It’s hard not to get angry at the fundamental unfairness of it all. But when you have chronic pain or invisible illnesses there’s no focus for that anger, and in the end, it will come back to bite you in the ass. “Don’t indulge your totally justified anger because in the end, you’re the one who will pay” is another one of those easier-said-than-done pieces of advice… but it’s also true.
Bonus: as a person who can’t resist buying a lovely book, well, I can confirm that this gorgeous edition of his collected work is worth buying.
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” – Unknown
Chronic pain is real. Mental health issues are real, and difficult, and painful. But the science is in: there’s a lot of evidence that the way we think about our pain affects the way we experience it. Dwelling on the worst possibilities, constantly stressed with your muscles full of knots, is not a good way to function. This is not to say that pain is in your head: just that those thoughts in your head can contribute to making that pain better or worse. So know yourself, as best you can, and avoid the stuff that gets you worked up or breaks your heart. (That goes double if you’re trying to get to sleep.)
My pain started when I was 15 and for a very long time I was haunted by the person I might have been. But there was nothing there but pain, disappointment and frustration. Is it natural to think about? Of course. Even though I’ve now been disabled and in chronic pain for the majority of my life, it still truly saddens me to think about all the things that are permanently off the table. That’s just part of being human, to some extent. But at the same time… How does it serve me to sit and mull over how I’ll never get to skydive?
(This quote is widely attributed to Buddha, but after doing some research, it seems there’s no evidence that it came from him. But that doesn’t change the wisdom, so I’m keepin’ it in.)
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” – Max Ehrmann
We’ll end with an oldie but a goodie. You’ve almost certainly heard “Desiderata,” even if you don’t recognize the name: it starts with the line “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” It’s all good stuff, but this is the line that really hit home for me. (Are you seeing the “be kind to yourself, dammit” theme here?)
The time you waste dwelling on what might have been is time you can’t get back. And whatever it is you can no longer do, there are still things you can. Focus on the opportunity. Focus on the joy. Reign in your mind when you feel it going to the dark place. Is all this easier said than done? 100%. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial.
(I love the design of this book, too:)