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When My Inner Critic Says I'm 'Lazy' as Someone With Chronic Pain

Gabrielle Nakasian
Woman holding umbrella in a storm.

You’re not lazy.

I have to speak these words to myself every single day to keep myself from hearing the voice in my head telling me the opposite.

You are lazy.

I believed it, especially in high school. When I couldn’t run up and down the court as fast as everyone else. When I struggled every single day to get out of bed. When all I wanted to do was lay down. When I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep. When I missed hundreds of classes. I believed it.

After I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, I was supposed to stop believing it. There was a reason for my pain — I wasn’t lazy. Yet it’s been almost 10 years and the thought still circles in my head.

No one has told me I’m lazy, but when I can’t get out of bed in the morning the thought rings in my ears. When I struggle to walk up the stairs, or don’t have energy to take a shower, or can’t get off the couch, I hear it again and again and again.

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Sometimes I don’t hear it. Sometimes I’m at personal training pulling 150 pounds on a sled. Sometimes I run on four hours of sleep and don’t sit down the next day. Sometimes I spend three nights in a row hanging out with friends. But these times almost make it even louder when I do hear it. Yesterday you did the most, so how come today you can’t get off the couch? The worst part is it’s not anyone else saying these things to me — it’s myself.

Living with a chronic pain disorder means every day — no, every hour — is unpredictable. I have days where I feel like I could run 10 miles, and I have days when I feel like I can’t walk. One minute I’m cleaning and cooking and running about, and the next I’m debilitated from my pain.

One of the biggest lies I believe in the midst of this unpredictable life is that I’m lazy. I’m obviously not trying hard enough, because I was fine five minutes ago. I think it’s easy for me to believe this lie because I compare myself not only to others, but to myself. I spend so much time seeing how I measure up to myself earlier that day or that week or that year, but I have no control over my body. I have no control over my pain.

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It boils down to letting go of the need to control my life. Sometimes I have no control over it, and I have to be OK with that. It’s not laziness, it’s having an unpredictable chronic pain disorder.

I’m learning how to talk to myself and remind myself what is true about me. Having to think so much about my life sometimes feels overwhelming and frustrating, but it’s taught me how to be a truth seeker in order to fight the biggest lies I believe.

So no, self, you are not lazy. I am not lazy.

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

When a Doctor Saw How 'Broken' I Felt Living With Pain

What Keeps Me Going as a Pre-Med Student With Chronic Illness

To the Teacher Who Called Me a 'Part-Timer'

Why I'm 'Coming Out' About My Disability