Who Have You Become? Don’t Let What Ails You Be Your Identity

cruise-couch-jump-oprah.jpgLiz Strauss posed an interesting question the other day that got me thinking. Let’s expand on it here.

If you were on Oprah’s Show today, what would you plug?

I’ll be the first to admit that I started out with a big long diatribe about people who let the problems with their physical bodies get them down and dictate and unnecessarily limit what they can do. I thought it was pretty well-written, but I was going to re-read it with fresh eyes and perspective to see if I was being too harsh.

In the end, I just plain forgot to hit ‘Save’ on my draft and closed the browser tab. All I was left with was that first paragraph, not even the quote. What you, dear readers, get as a result, is a much more powerful message from someone very much like me. Oh, and I was probably too harsh in my original draft.

First off, here is what I left on Liz’s post:

Perfectly PetersenI would plug about how to let your handicaps transform your identity, but not become your identity. Too many people become the diabetic, the one with the limp, you name it, some people ARE their problems in life.

We need to embrace what is wrong with us and overcome them to become someone, something, greater than the handicap that hinders those who dwell on their problems.

Basically, I am of the opinion that there are too many weaklings out there that make their issues the focus of their life and put it in everyone else’s face, too. By the time most people find out that I have cystic fibrosis, they are either amazed that I’m still alive or ticked off at me for “leading them” to think that I had a cold for the last few months. At typical comment from a new friend witnessing their first Jesse-spaz goes like this:

Friend: Wow! Got a touch of something, there? I just got over something last week myself. I know how you feel.
Me: Nah, I’ve had this for 28 years. I’m pretty used to it. I think it’s here to stay.

Notice the complete lack of seeking sympathy? I want to be judged for who I am, what I can do, rather than making provisions for anything related to the knowledge of my CF. The only time that is appropriate is when there are actual trials and suffering, such as another sinus surgery or a couple of nights in the hospital. It just needs to go along with some understanding that I’m having a bit of a rough time, it’s nothing new, and I appreciate your concern. The only special treatment will come from the doctor’s orders, not me.

That said, Mrs. Petersen has found some great information on some forums and a couple of new blogs. I went to a couple of them this weekend and found this gem on Breathe 4 Tomorrow, which sums up my idea as perfectly as I ever could. From Two Types of CFers:

I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of CFers out there. The first group are the patients that really have a negative outlook on their disease and use their disease as a crutch, as an excuse. These are the people who look for sympathy because of their CF. I find that these people are often sick. I believe this could be because of their outlook on their disease.

The second group are those people who have the attitude of “This disease does not define me, nor limit me, the only thing this disease does is MAKE ME STRONGER!!” I enjoy talking with these people. This is the energy that BREATHE 4 TOMORROW wants to bring into the CF community. I feel like if we could start showing the little ones with CF that it is NOT a death sentence and that they are going to live long fuller lives, that our community is going to grow older and older and sstronger and stronger… I consider myself one of these people, I have my hard times and I get down sometimes when I am sick or when I have to go home because I have to do my breathing treatments, but I can usually pull myself right out of it… I welcome each new day with a smile and I say “thank you” and I say it out loud… and on top of it… I FEEL IT!!

This leads me to a few questions for you, so please let me (heck… us, for that matter) know what you think of this conclusion. Am I wrong to not tell people upon introductions in a small group or couples outing? What about the workplace? I try to not think of CF if I can at all help it, but some would think that’s not accepting who I am.

What do you say?