Thursday, February 26, 2009
10 Things I Have Learned From Being Sick
Oh God, please, I don't want to be sick anymore. I want to be well and happy and live my life and attain peace and fulfillment. But if I have to be sick, (and it seems that I do, since I have been sick for so long, and I have already tried everything to become well and failed), then please, please, let it not be for nought. Let my experience of illness benefit myself and others. Let me learn, grow, teach, and touch others' lives in a positive way.
10 Things I Have Learned From Being Sick:
1. That the Body is not the Self.
2. That the body's insistent demands can be heeded or ignored, by conscious choice.
3. I have developed self-discipline, at long last. I can swallow terrible-tasting medications daily, if needed. I can abstain from things I love and crave, like sugar, dairy products, chocolate, gluten (pizza and bread!), and even sex, to help myself feel better.
4. That so-called "experts" are not necessarily trustworthy. I have been misdiagnosed, wrongly advised, and prescribed medications that made me much worse. Now, I trust my inner voice and my body's clear messages over and above the advice of any doctor or professional. I know myself best.
5. I have learned to be an excellent medical researcher and holistic health scholar, out of dire necessity. I have learned so much about yoga, natural healing, nutrition, nutritional supplements, food sensitivities, herbology, homeopathy, ayurveda, amino acid therapy, psychiatric treatments, pain medications, sleep remedies, and much more. Ask me anything!
6. I have learned to lean on others for support when needed. I much prefer to be independent, and am very strong-minded. But when the chips are down (and they often have been, in recent years), I have learned to ask for help, and to let others take care of me. I especially thank my husband and my parents for their help in learning this lesson.
7. I have learned to let go of perfectionism. I cannot do everything exactly the way I want to do it anymore. For awhile, I was overwhelmingly frustrated by the limitations of being ill. Many days I can barely get out of bed. Even doing one or two things half-assed is a major victory. My ego wants to excel, but my aching body and unstable mind really need to just get by. So I have learned to just get by, and to be okay with that. The girl with a National Merit Scholarship and straight A's at Yale has learned many humbling lessons from being too ill to work.
8. I have learned to have so much more compassion for others. I used to be jealous of other people who seemed to have easier lives than mine. I now know that we are all struggling, in our own individual ways, as the wheel of Samsara turns. Having an invisible disability makes me look a little closer at all the "normal," healthy-looking people I meet, since I'm sure I look normal and healthy to you, and I'm not.
The more I look and listen, the more I realize we all have problems, we all suffer, we all are learning from our challenges, we are all beautiful, and we are all in this together. No matter what, I try my best to be kind to everyone I encounter. No matter how I'm feeling, I can at least smile and acknowledge each person's humanity and divinity: "Namaste'."
9. I have learned to pace myself. Pushing myself makes my illnesses push back. I tend to be driven, but I know now that I am not in the driver's seat. This particular experience of being alive -- with fibromyalgia and manic-depressive illness -- forces me into the passenger seat.
I used to convince myself I was in control. Now, I flow with my moods. I yield to my pain cycles. I don't push my body around anymore. I heed my body's wisdom, trust my inner voice, and hand over the steering wheel to my Higher Power. Being ill has taught me to let go and allow my life to unfold, naturally.
10. I have learned to let go of the many "should"s and "have-to"s of life -- because I've had to. I used to be ambitious, with a strong, people-pleasing streak, and would do things just to impress others. Now, being ill has given me an excellent alibi for avoiding anything I don't really want to do anyway -- especially things that are not really good for me.
For example, I used to drink alcohol and smoke weed and sometimes wind up in the wrong man's bed. Now, thanks to being mentally ill and medicated, I cannot drink or toke at all, and am able to avoid all sorts of unhealthy dramas. I also no longer eat sugar, stay out late, overexercise, overwork, or overstress -- or else I pay an immediate and drastic price. Overindulgence or excess stress leads to mood swings (which often become suicidal thoughts) and pain flares (which often debilitate me completely).
So, ironically, being ill has forced me to be healthy. I take really good care of myself now. My diet and lifestyle are balanced and healthy -- no matter what that other people around me are doing, and no matter what other people expect me to do. Bye-bye "should"s -- Hello self-care.
So, I've learned a few things from the struggles I've been through in recent years. So, God, what do you think? Maybe I've learned my lessons? Maybe now can I be well again???
Feel free to comment or email me your own list, or any thoughts. Namaste'.