I’ve just been scrolling through one of the Rheumatoid Arthritis forums, and I stopped to very gently comment and support a fellow poster because she felt she was a failure. Her exact words were “since I’ve failed Humira and Enbrel and methotrexate..”
Of course she isn’t a failure. It is no more her fault that those drugs didn’t work than it would be the engines fault for not working because the wrong type of fuel was used.
I then realised that I’d said in my last blog that I felt like I’d failed. Hmmmm! It’s a fascinating choice of word to use, and I suspect both this lady and I did it completely subconsciously.
I just checked the Oxford English (my go to for definitions), and it says “Lack of success”, “the action or state of not functioning” or “A lack or deficiency of a desirable quality”. It is clear that none of these apply to us personally, either to her or me. It could be said that the drugs she has been given failed, that would be fair, but in no way that she had.
In my case I used the term in my last blog, Fighting the Thief that is RA, to describe how I felt I’d failed at losing my home through/to this illness. A follower very kindly immediately commented that I hadn’t failed, but it took me a little thought to agree.
In very brief terms I started feeling ill last September, obvious symptoms started in November, I was diagnosed in early March and haven’t been well enough to work since the end of March. This unfortunately meant no income, without income I can’t pay rent. So what in that makes me think I’ve failed?
I’ve given this some thought today, and, rightly or wrongly, for me I think it comes down to self worth and perception. I’ve worked hard all my life, I enjoy nice things, I’m in my 40’s and I feel that invisible societal pressure to live a certain way. To have the house and the job and the car etc. I’ve certainly identified very clearly with my work persona, and measured myself against that identity.
I’m currently signed off sick, so that has been lost to me, albeit hopefully temporarily. The rest is ‘vanishing’ on Monday when I leave my house for emergency accommodation (and my stuff disappears into storage), of course I feel like a failure. But on reflection that says far more about my values, and perhaps opens a window I’m not that keen to look through. I don’t think I’m shallow, and I would certainly never judge anyone I know by income or status symbols, so why am I so hard on myself?
Why are we all so hard on ourselves? I don’t have the answer, perhaps psychology does. I do know that in general we prop friends up but knock ourselves down, and that’s not helpful or healthy. So I’ve made a promise to myself as I’ve written this tonight, simply to try to be as kind to myself as I would be to others. I sincerely hope you feel able to do the same.