Illness and The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Emotional Well-Being

Illness and The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We tell ourselves stories every day.  All stories have power; some influence our confidence and others our emotions. 

 

Take this example a client of mine shared: two women walk into a restaurant.  Both glance in the mirror and both see major flaws.  The first says to herself- “wow, I really shouldn’t have gone out looking like this.  I look tired, my hair is flat, my face is sallow, and I appear sickly”.  What emotions may show up for her with this story?  The second says to herself- “wow, the lighting in this restaurant is really bad.  Plus, this mirror seems to distort things because my face doesn’t normally look like that”.  What emotions may show up for her with this story?  Both have a similar experience, and yet I would guess that each have a very different meaning that they take from that encounter.

 

Think about what diabetes means to you, and the stories you have told yourself about having diabetes.  Through patient encounters, many stories I have heard include things like- “I am ill”, “I did something wrong”, “I may never get better”, or “I don’t deserve this”.  Think about what emotions may show up in response to stories like these. 

 

How might the meaning shift if the stories include things like- “I have diabetes and I also am: x, y, or z”, “I am more than the sum of my parts, diabetes is one part of me, but not all of me”, “Every day I have an opportunity to choose something that brings me closer to living a vital and meaningful life”, or “I have an opportunity to improve my health”.  What emotions may show up in response to stories like these?

 

While these stories may not fit your own experience, I challenge you to think about the stories that you have told yourself and examine whether you can shift these stories through a slightly different lens to better move toward your own personal goals and values in life. 

 

Dr. Diana Naranjo is a Clinical Psychologist who works at Stanford University with the diabetes and cystic fibrosis clinics.