When I got my diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, I was welcomed into the world of the “lupus warriors”. It was equal parts glorious and unhelpful.
At last, there were people in my world who knew what I went through with this unruly body on a daily basis. I didn’t have to explain the ins and outs of my pain and symptoms because they got it. “Bad pain day” wasn’t just a bit of an ouchy day, it was “warrior speak” for ‘I can’t think about anything but pain today and I just want to pass out for a while’. I met some wonderful people, who helped me through one of the biggest personal upheavals I had gone to date. I love and am eternally grateful for those I found along the way.
There’s something liberating about getting your diagnosis after years of convincing your doctor that yes, you actually are sick (no, it's not just anxiety - there is some kind of fault with this body and I would like a refund or at least some working repairs). It’s a mark of sanity, with a side helping of “I told you so”. To me, it felt like taking off uncomfortable shoes after a day of walking around in agony… for about a week.
The part that takes a while to sink in is that chronic conditions are chronic. As in, without changes in medical science or finding a magic lamp, this isn’t actually going anywhere fast. There’s a huge reordering of the mental “filing cabinets of beliefs” that comes with the process: removing the plans put on hold until “when I’m better” and thoughts of “I’ll get back to the old me and then I’ll…”
In come a whole new set of beliefs about yourself and your place in the world. There were a fair few “I can’ts” I picked up along the way - barriers that I believed were now in my way. Things I couldn’t do (or couldn’t let myself do), and options that were no longer available to me with my new status of “officially sick”.
And this is where the sneaky tricks of the “warrior” mindset come in.
There’s nothing wrong with the “warrior” archetype - it’s one I use a lot with clients who need to find some oomph. If your "get up and go" has up and left, then bringing some warrioress into your life is the perfect antidote. It’s an energetic mode and one that encourages bold action. It can feel really great harnessing the youthful, fun, idealistic part of yourself and unleashing her on the world.
The problem comes when she gets too much free reign. The warrior has no problem sacrificing their needs, energy, time or even their lives for the cause. She will battle on regardless, right up until the bitter end. For the lupus warrior, the “cause” is fighting our bodies into submission. Here are a handful of the “motivational quotes” I used to keep on my desk at work:
“I’m a lupus warrior - I’m fighting a war with my body and it WILL. NOT. WIN”
“Fight for your life, and make it a good one”
“It’s like swimming upstream every moment you’re awake - just keep swimming!”
The true warrior isn’t immune to fear, she fights in spite of it.”
This mentality had a huge cost for me. I internalised the messages: warriors don’t rest, or take painkillers, or stay in bed just because of a ‘little bit of pain’. They push through. They put on a brave face. They resist. They overcome.
For me, operating from this place made all my boundaries fall away. If I said no to extra work responsibilities, would I be showing weakness? Would people start to doubt me? If I stayed in bed when I ‘should be’ meeting friends or spending time with loved ones, would they think I was selfish? Would my small circle of friends get even smaller?
I became the ultimate “yes woman”.
I hit rock bottom, and I kept on digging.
I got incredibly sick, both mentally and physically.
My point, lovely reader, is this - what is your inner “warrior” whispering to you? How does she show up in your life? And maybe more importantly - what is the cost? Where will you be in five years, if she is still running the show?
Where do you want to be instead?
It’s taken me a lot of time - and a lot of coaching - to get to the point where I can call on my inner warrioress without letting her run the show. My coach held the space for me to delve into my inner filing cabinets and shine a light on what was inside. If a belief was true, or helpful, it got to stay. If it was not, we released it and replaced it.
It’s not a journey that is done - far from it - but now I have the tools to help myself when I spot the pesky “battle” begin again. Even better, I have the tools to help you get free from these beliefs too.
I met the gorgeous Martha right at the start of my lupus journey - she’s another lupus having- she’s another lupus having lady - and I was privileged enough to coach her in 2019. She tagged me in this feedback a few weeks ago, and it reminded me just how far we can come when we open the door to a range of archetypes and release the thoughts that don’t help…
“I have found coaching invaluable in helping me clarify my goals, make concrete plans, and change the way I perceive and react to the world; all the while staying true to myself and taking care of the important people in my life.”
If you need to let go of the “warrior” mindset and develop some tools for sustainable, health-promoting power, let’s chat.