Find your courage, don't let your illness rule your life, focus on what is good in your life instead
I am a physician. I am also a patient, a sick person. I have lived with chronic illness most of my life. I am intimately familiar with illness. I have eaten with it, slept with it, had babies with it and traveled with it. It has been my constant companion for most of my life.
So, I have learned a few things about illness over time. In particular, I have learned that illness is a bully. It is a nasty bully that steals your lunch money, punches you in the stomach, beats you every chance it gets, and leaves you feeling weak and helpless, hopeless, despairing and alone.
This may not be news to you. If you have lived, like me, with things like decades of daily nausea, excruciating episodes of pain, and inability to keep jobs because of your symptoms, then you already understand the cruelty of illness and its depletion of your confidence.
You already know what sort of bully it is. But, here's the thing to remember: bullies are cowards. So, they back down in the face of real courage. Healing begins the moment you find that courage.
This is something that I am still learning, and probably always will be learning. But, yet, it is the most valuable thing that I know so far about healing, far more valuable than anything that I learned specifically in medical school. And, not long ago, I had an experience that opened up an entirely new chapter in this learning for me.
That is, one day a few months ago, I found myself in the hands of my bully in the form of an inflamed gallbladder, possibly due to a trapped gallstone. Excruciating pain shot through my center as I lay writhing on the floor, trying against hope to find some relatively comfortable position.
As a doctor, I understood the details of the danger. I knew that if I had a trapped gallstone then it could rupture internal organs and kill me. I knew that pain of that magnitude, regardless of the cause, calls for a swift visit to the emergency room.
I've been in pain before. I've had kidney stones. I've done natural childbirth. I know pain. That was BAD pain.
But, I had changed since the last time my bully had attacked me like that. Specifically, I had been studying and experimenting with the idea of the "Law of Attraction". This is the concept that everything that happens to you results from your own state of being.
In particular, I had been listening to Abraham Hicks (visit his website!) frequently for several months and absorbing the idea that I could improve my life by simple focus on being happy and feeling good, regardless of circumstances.
Now, I don't mean to imply that "simple" here means "easy". It is by no means easy to focus on feeling good when you feel lousy. And, I had quickly discovered, when I first started the experiments, that I had a very entrenched habit of long-term negative thinking to overcome in order to accomplish this.
But, I persisted, and learned to discipline myself to ignore unpleasant situations and pain by turning my attention to things for which I can easily feel grateful, and even happy, about. At first, it was difficult to find those happy and welcome things. But, but it got easier with practice.
By the time the bully showed up in the form of the gallbladder attack, I had already practiced switching my focus with milder attacks of pain. And, I had discovered each time that ignoring the pain by focusing on pleasant things did, in fact, decrease it and shorten its duration.
I had also discovered that the technique worked well in other areas of my life, such as difficult relationships and stressful work situations.
However, this time, lying on the floor contemplating the possibility that the bully might kill me, I was (understandably) conflicted about continuing with my experiments. The trained physician part of me was entirely convinced that I needed to go to the hospital at once and was clear on the stupidity of resisting that.
The sick person in me, though, the little girl, the teenager, the adult woman who had spent her entire life being bullied and abused by illness, this person suddenly felt an unfamiliar glimmer of real courage.
All at once, I knew what I had to do. I turned away from the inner physician, took a deep breath, looked my illness right in the eye and said: "Fuck you, illness. I've had enough. Kill me if you want, but I won't be your victim one moment longer. I'm taking my life back or I will die trying." And, I meant it.
And, so began an intense wrestling match between me and my bully. I struggled to ignore the excruciating pain, fear of death, and doubt in my technique, and focus on whatever I could imagine to make myself feel good.
Abraham Hicks has said that it takes about 17 seconds to get good momentum going with a new thought, and if you can sustain it for 68 seconds, then you can change your "vibration" or "state of being", which will ultimately change your physical experience.
So, I stared at the clock and worked to maintain good-feeling thoughts for 68 seconds. It took me an hour, but I finally won. At a point where I had finally managed to ignore the pain and sustain good feelings for about 80 seconds, my awareness of the pain evaporated and I feel asleep.
When I woke up about 5 hours later, I had a very small amount of residual aching, and that was the end of it. I ignored that, as well, and in a few days it had cleared entirely. As a naturopathic doctor, I could have given myself all sorts of herbs or other treatments, but I decided against it.
I needed to prove to myself and my bully that I was enough, that the simple choice to stop being a victim to my illness could change everything. And, it did.
So, I encourage you to start on the same path of experimentation. Of course, I am not suggesting that you put your life in danger. If you are in excruciating pain, you can always practice focusing on other things AFTER you are safely under care in the hospital.
Start small, like I did, and build discipline, and see the results of your efforts in less frightening ways. But, stop letting your illness rule your life. Change your attitude towards your bully. Stop giving it the power to decide how you feel.
Maybe it can still punch you in the stomach, for now. But you can look it in the eye and let it know that a punched stomach isn't going to stop you from doing anything that you really want to do. And, it damn sure can't stop you from feeling however you choose to feel. I proved that to myself.
So, just do it. Prove to yourself that you can take on your bully and win. Say "Fuck you, illness. I don't care what you want any longer. This is my life and I'm taking it back." Then, turn your back on your bully, ignore it, walk away, and find something wonderful to think about instead for 17 seconds. Then do it for 68 seconds. Then watch your life change.