When you live with a chronic illness and all its related discomforts, “Why me?” is a question you ask often. Being sick is a personal thing, especially when it feels like you are being punished. If we feel pain and we feel as if we are suffering, then we ask this question.
But we don’t ask it when good things happen. Could you imagine saying, “Why me?” when it comes to happy events in your life? With illness and suffering, we have this tendency to believe that we did something to bring it upon ourselves. Additionally, we want an explanation for our pain and suffering and what we believe (mentally and spiritually) determines the extent of that suffering.
A Personal Example
When I was about nine years old, my mom was walking and was hit by a car. The next six months to a year of our lives involved watching her struggle to regain control of her body and there were times where it took its toll on her. As a kid, I never understood the extent that her pain had on us. She struggled, but she still managed to take care of us, spend time with us, make us meals, clean our home, etc. She did all these things despite her own ordeal, but we still saw the toll it took on her. I wonder if she ever asked “Why me?” Perhaps, she didn’t or maybe I wasn’t listening when she did. And if she did, was she ever able to answer that question? As an adult, I can recall her pain but as a child, I do not recalling asking “Why my mom?”
When I was diagnosed, I wanted to believe I would protect my children from ever knowing the extent of my pain from living and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Four years later and after a whole lot of soul searching, I know that I cannot even get close to hiding the extent of my suffering from my children. Just like my mother was not able to hide it all those years ago, I am not able to now. However, I just hope my children do not realize my ordeal until they are adults themselves, or hopefully, they never do.
Trying to find out the “Why me?” answer is a never ending quest as I have learned. We can blame stress, genetics, lifestyle, or even God as we try to determine why it is we are suffering. On our own, we must realize that that our suffering has nothing to do us or anything we have done. It has to do with being human and with being alive. To be alive means that we can feel something — even if it is pain and suffering. Suffering offers no discrimination; it does not care about sex, race, religion, age, etc. No one is spared or favored. There is nothing anyone can do to avoid suffering and the only way to live life despite that is to change our beliefs and the questions we are asking.
Letting Go of “Why Me?”
To lessen our painful circumstances, we need to stop asking “Why me?” as if we are being personally attacked. The universe has not picked you to suffer and when it comes down to it, you suffer by your own choosing if you so please. Chronic illness and pain has nothing against us specifically and unless we escape that mindset, we will never be able to manage our diseases successfully.
Think about the loss of a loved one. Death never makes sense, so for anyone of us to try to make sense of why someone died or suffered only prolongs the grieving process. That is not to say that it isn’t necessary. Asking questions allow us to deal with the blows we have been dealt. However, if it goes on longer than it should, it does not allow us to accept those circumstances. Changing our questions means we change our experiences and beliefs about suffering. So is it time for you to stop asking “Why me?” and start asking “What can I do to make this a better experience?”
As many of us are aware, we are presented with a big task after we are diagnosed — bringing back meaning to our lives, lives that have been altered by chronic illness. It is a grieving process and dealing successfully is critical. We cannot respond positively if we are still asking “Why me?”
You can wrestle with your thoughts all day or you can find ways to busy your thoughts. Pay attention to what you are telling yourself and ask yourself if you are hindering yourself from living positively. Being aware of our circumstances and our suffering allows us to stop asking why and to move toward making the necessary changes to our lives. Once the negative self-talk stops and you stop asking why, you will realize that the “Why me?” isn’t as important as the “What now?”