Updated: Nov 3, 2020
When someone is given a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening disease it often leaves that person in shock and the first question asked is, why did this happen to me? It is a question that generally goes unanswered. Our friends can’t give us a response that makes us content and our doctors don’t ever seem to enlighten us in a way that gives us comfort, either. For most of us, who are suffering now or look forward to that in the future, this mantra of pleading is more a cry to be rescued than a search for the truth.
Instead of looking outward for answers, this might be the time to look within and see if personal responsibility has played a role at all. Heartless of me to ask that? Certainly not since I feel totally qualified to be writing a blog about this subject. In the past 35-years, I’ve faced myriad of chronic and incurable conditions. Luckily, I overcame them all but only because I took responsibility for every one of my illnesses and in doing so realized that if I had the power to do that to my body, I probably had the power to also recover.
Even tho’ this blog is about the gifts illness brings – we might consider that accepting a little personal responsibility might provide a healthier perspective on future change. If drinking and smoking, for example, could contribute to throat, lung or liver issues – maybe something emotionally could also be a trigger to exacerbate the same issue. Anyway, personal responsibility allows us to be a bit more curious and if we are totally honest with ourselves we need to admit that by the time we reach our 50’s, 60’s or 70’s we’ve had plenty of time to do damage to ourselves – physically, mentally or emotionally.
This brings me to the first gift illness provides, the gift of time. A time-out from the routine, a time to reflect and a time to correct attitudes and actions going forward. This time-out gives us the opportunity to get it right going forward and course correct. With this extra time, the questions we should be asking are: how do I repair what I’ve done? How do I change my life so I can heal? Where do I go for a different perspective about this condition or disease – not a second opinion but a different perspective? Believe me, there are answers – and maybe with this gift of time you have a chance to shift gears. Reflection time is a gift we almost never give to ourselves.
Illness also provides a direct benefit for others. When ill, one’s life changes – sometimes for the better. More time for yourself? (Maybe you need more balance in your life.) Gaining nurturing from others? (Examine the relationships to see if they give you the love and nurturing everyone needs from time-to-time. Maybe, it's just a chance to nuture and love yourself more.) A break from excess stress? (If it’s work related stress, you may be in a job that's not healthy for you. And, if it is relationship stress – this might be the chance to stay away from a person who could be the issue.)
The could be other benefits, too. Perhaps its an excuse to hear from those you love. And if you don't hear from them, are your expectations even realistic? For some, illness’ benefit just gives them something to talk about with others. If your life is that boring or uninteresting – change your routine: read more, volunteer or take up a hobby.
Finally, illness brings the gift of enlightenment. It slows us down so we can do the growing and internal work that’s necessary to create a happy and peaceful life. In a nutshell, illness gives us time to observe and respond to internal as well as external forces; helps us focus on our spiritual and emotional needs; provides an intervention – a chance to change; and almost always stimulates a stronger spiritual connection that includes more personal communication with God or others on the “other side” who are there to support and help us.
Gifts from illness flow in abundance. So, before crying and complaining about the state of our lives – let's take a moment to be grateful. All of life is a gift – every day. So, whether we are totally healthy or not, we are alive to continue our healing on all levels – the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. The physical is self-explanatory, but the others are more subtle – and perhaps even the most important. Be grateful for your illness, for it that kind of time you need for the most important facets of this journey.