Your Illness Does Not Define You

ibs inspiration wellness Jan 29, 2019

As I sit here writing this, I'm reflecting on the past 7-8 years of struggling with chronic illness.

The ups and downs have been colourful to say the least. I've committed to working through mommy issues, daddy issues, sister issues, shame, guilt, regret, depression, addiction, anxiety and self-doubt.

My illness has been my greatest teacher. I am grateful for it, though I'm happy to now ask it politely to take a f-ing hike when it tries to pull me back in.

The learning is there. The self-love is there. The calm, peace and awareness are all there. I didn't skip the struggle to achieve this. I faced the work, asked the hard questions, I did the reading and therapy to work through what it was that was making me so damn angry and manifesting as category 3 hurricanes in my gut, and body.

Your Illness Does Not Define You

The following is a perspective of a person who has fought every step of the way to find emotional, physical and spiritual freedom from her illness, and I in no way believe that just by reading this blog and story that you may instantly shift your perspective on your dis-ease... Although what do I know, maybe you will! (I would love that by the way) ;)

I believe it takes a commitment and continuous wrangling-in of the alienating thought patterns that keep us stuck, small and suffering. But you can do it. I know it can be done, and believe that you will find the peace you desire by doing the work and facing it head-on.

The alienating thoughts may look like this:

  • I'm never going to get better
  • Am I not worthy of healing?
  • Who will ever love me the way I am right now? 
  • No one will want to deal with me, I have too many issues 
  • Can everyone around me see my damage?
  • OMG I'm so embarrassed, I can't face anyone 
  • Why the hell is this happening to me, and seemingly no one else I know?

What I've learned from the incredible work I've done with my coach, mindfulness coach and therapist is that this is our inner critic. Our ego. It has been carefully programmed into our psyche over millennia to keep us out of danger. To not take risks that could end up in us dying, and to not infect our tribe.

Solitude, depression, and isolation are not functional patterns that will lead us to healing. Not anymore.

I've also learned that we commit to these ways of thinking because we want to prove ourselves right. On an unconscious level, of course. Nonetheless, a commitment that ultimately doesn't serve us. We just need to shift our commitment to being right in the positive direction, for all of the good, loving and self-supportive ways that are there for the taking.

And lastly, I've learned that comparison kills growth and healing.

Personally, I have found the mindfulness piece to be the most effective in the moment at identifying thoughts rooted in fear and then make a non-judgemental shift into the positive. It's an incredible practise that never stops giving. It also works for me to become acutely aware of these cyclical thoughts and make a decision from a place of consciousness and maturity to notice all that I am, aside from what I may be going through health-wise:

  • My warmth and empathy toward others
  • My desire to help and connect with people
  • My love of nature and food
  • My love of music and dancing
  • The artistic side of my being
  • My ability to hold space for a friend and listen
  • My passion and bewilderment for my future and all the that the unknown holds
  • My stories and experiences while traveling the world 

The list goes on. (It's ok, self-love isn't narcissism - try making your own list!)

THESE are the traits that matter. The above is who I truly am. These are the parts of my personality that have gotten me through sad and dark times while being confused and grappling with disease.

It's easy to forget who we truly are when facing tenacious and unforgiving symptoms. It takes effort to override the programming and download a new way of being. A new pattern that ultimately leads us to feel worthy, more connected to others - to keep gracefully living this thing called life. 

Consciousness, and not identifying with our diseases and illnesses is what can ultimately lead us to true freedom.

Empowering Mantras:

  • Take me or leave me as I am - I am whole either way.
  • I am worthy of unconditional love, especially from myself.
  • I am a million different things that are beautiful and unrelated to my struggle
  • Progress isn't always linear - I am open to the learning from the peaks and valleys of my symptoms
  • I am not my illness...I am (fill in the blank with all the wonderful things that you are!)

Write these down and come up with your own! Video record them, put them on sticky notes all around your apartment, or even write them on your bathroom mirror.

Spend the time re-routing new neuropathways until it becomes the dominant way of thinking and focusing for you.

You are not your illness, my sweet friend. You are your passions, your talents, your warm, and loving traits.

Humans get sick, they get better, they sometimes oscillate in between, and that - that is not life. It is a part of life, though not the whole of it. You know how to swim, kick yourself back above water...gain the perspective of your surroundings and swim ferociously toward your paradise island.

You are not your illness. There is a glorious world inside of, and surrounding you. Live there.

Cassandra Hope, RHN and fellow IBS-Warrior.

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