A spiritual approach to living with illness
How can we move in the direction of healing ourselves? I believe that this is an essential question for anyone with a disease or illness to contemplate. And let’s face it, that is pretty much all of us. If you have not experienced your own health issues (lucky you!), then chances are good that you know someone who is going through or has gone through their own health challenges. My biggest health challenge started in 1990 when I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). So began my life as an inpatient.
One of the mantras of IBD’s national health organization, CCFA (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America) is, Hope for a cure. YES! Of course, I hope to one day see a cure for IBD, as well as many other illnesses. Lately though, my thinking is shifting. Is it really all about the cure? What about the journey of the healing?
After spending one year as a social work intern at one of New Jersey’s leading cancer centers, I had an ”a-ha” moment while I was trying to help clients. As I led one-on-one assessments to provide my social work services for patients with advanced cancer, I realized I was the one being helped.
I was finally beginning to see that healing is not synonymous with being cured.
One particular client stood out. As he tapped into his painting talents from high school, I watched in awe as he transformed from denial to acceptance and from panic to living in each moment. He became a joy to be around; his energy was bursting with life. Was he cured? No. Was he healed? I would say yes. He gave me one of his drawings. I framed it and will always cherish it as a lesson learned about the process of healing.
Ever wonder what it is like to witness someone transform in a health crisis, while you are in the midst of your own? If you are like me, you experiment and try things on for size. In 2013, I vowed to try anything and everything that would help in my own personal healing. To even have one pain-free day would be more than I hoped for or expected. I kept a blog, Seeking Wellness: A Year of Choices with Hope of Restored Health. What I discovered about myself was that I was evolving into an open-minded skeptic.
In that year, I had many adventures. I got dehydrated in a human sweatbox while testing out Ayurvedic treatments; I was zapped while I used my cell phone on a Raymond Royal Rife machine; I tried to take selfies of my hands unsuccessfully during an acupuncture session (ouch); and I learned how to be serious during tree pose in yoga without bursting into the song, Let It Grow from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” movie. As I opened up my mind to new treatments, something was happening to me. I became lighter. Well, not weight-wise lighter, and not lighter in my choice of clothes (I do have a tendency to wear all black), but I felt playful, and I was not taking myself as seriously anymore.
I was smiling more. Dare I admit that I was changing? Laughing more and with that, evolving. This Type A was becoming less hard on herself.
I was having so much fun learning all of these new healing modalities that I did not stop after that first year of seeking. I like to say I am still a work in progress, but I’m happy to report that progress has been made.
So, did these new modalities help me physically? Am I cured? Given that I am typing this article from a hospital bed, I guess the answer has to be no. Am I healed? Let’s just say I am definitely a lot further along on the path of becoming Maslow’s definition of a self-actualized person than I have ever been before. I am learning how to love myself, to forgive in the truest sense, and to step forward into the future as the ”best self” I can be. And I have learned to appreciate the profound wisdom put forth by my beloved Doctor Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Follow Sharon on Facebook