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 my drinking and smoking could have contributed to my throat, lung or liver issues – maybe something emotionally in my life was a trigger to exacerbate this 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 some damage to ourselves – physically, mentally or emotionally.
This brings us 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 our 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 this time you have been given gives you a chance to shift gears. Reflection time is a gift we almost never give to ourselves.
Illness also provides for some – a direct benefit. 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 in your life to see if they are healthy, need repair or from which you should walk away. Or, maybe this is a chance for you to begin to love and nurture yourself more.) A break from excess stress? (If it’s work related stress, is this job really right and healthy for you? And, if it is relationship stress – is this is chance to stay away from the person who might be the issue?) Maybe the benefit is an excuse to hear from those you love (are you lonely and craving more attention from those you care about? Maybe that awareness hadn’t registered with you before and now you realize what’s lacking. The answer might be volunteering or doing something that will help you “get a life” for yourself instead of depending upon others.) For some, illness’ benefit just gives them something to talk about with others. (If your life is that boring or uninteresting – 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 we cry and complain about the state of our lives – 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 is giving you the break you need.