Twenty years ago, at the age of twenty-nine, I was diagnosed with lupus, a life-threatening autoimmune disease. I was thrown into the intensity of the illness as if I’d been pitched off a ship into rough seas. In the beginning, I flailed about and thought I was going to drown. I didn’t know which way was up or how I would make it through. Then I calmed down and began to tread water. Soon, people, ideas and different healing methods began to arrive like lifeboats, pulling me out of the water and bringing me back to land.
From there, I embarked on my journey towards optimal health and learned many things. Several things pointed me in the right direction, or the wrong direction – which led me back to the right one. I’ve filled my life with tools to help me manage lupus; meditation, yoga, dietary changes and incorporating more rest into my life. I’ve been blessed to have found some of the most powerful healers on the planet. And for all that, according to my diagnosis, my lab work, and the symptoms I deal with every day, I am still sick. I am much healthier than at the beginning of my journey, but I am not in remission.
Yet, I am not a failure; I have not failed to heal.
It’s easy to equate healing with “returning to normal,” going back to the way things were before the illness. This seeking to heal, to be rid of the pain, is a fierce internal drive.
In addition, we live in a society with a plethora of advice on how to regain our physical health: books, webinars, podcasts, doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists. Many of them claim that if you do x, y, and z, you’ll be completely healed; healthy and back to normal – just like them. It’s easy to want what they offer, to be in remission, to be rid of the pain, to “go back to normal.” This wealth of information is valuable and helpful. But there is a dark side. Underneath all the hype there resides an unintended, hidden message. A message that the purpose of your life is to be healthy. That if you are healthy, THEN you will have value and be worthy. I’m here to tell you, that message is not true!
While complete physical healing is a worthy and noble goal, know that if you are still struggling with symptoms of any kind, you are not a failure! You haven’t done anything wrong; you are not broken. You may have physical pain and dis-ease; you may still have bouts of emotional distress or feel disharmony in other areas of your life. But that does not define you.
You are enough.
You are complete, whole and valuable exactly as you are.
I’m not saying don’t try to gain optimal health. Try! Explore, learn, experiment. Do all the things you feel called to do on your own, unique healing journey. But I invite you to try from a place of curiosity, centeredness, and kindness. Kindness and self-compassion to the parts of yourself that are exhausted, scared and trembling inside. And try from a place of knowing you are not broken.
See that you can have a beautiful and abundant life while living with a chronic illness. In fact, an illness can be a vehicle that takes you on a journey you may not have chosen to embark upon if you’d remained physically healthy. It can take you on a journey of; inner self-exploration, musings with the mystical, increased self-love, and expanded compassion for yourself and others. All of which leads you towards wellbeing – a sensation of inner peace and wellness that can occur no matter what external events or circumstances are happening around you.
You can be living with a chronic illness and have a deep sense of well-being.
Once I uncovered all of this for myself. I felt a huge sense of relief. A heavy burden that I’d been carrying for years had been lifted from my shoulders.
I started viewing “healthy” from a different perspective. Rather than qualifying “healthy” as being in complete remission, medication free and fitting into the societal norm of “healthy,” I took a softer approach. I began to define “healthy” as Optimal Health; the greatest health available within my potential that respected my own body’s unique physiology, limitations and conditions. This meant that my health could look different each day. It left room for still having symptoms and taking medication. It removed the stress of comparison. I felt more accepting, loving and compassionate towards myself.
I’ve found deep peace in knowing I’m not broken. I still need lots of self-care, some medication and plenty of due diligence to maintain optimal health while living with lupus, but that does not mean there is something wrong with me. I know I have value exactly as I am. I’ve found contentment beyond circumstances.
May you too know that you can find wellbeing, peace, and contentment while living with a chronic illness.
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