My Greatest Teacher: Chronic Illness

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As somebody that fell down the rabbit hole of chronic illness at the tender age of 26 and  experienced long-term pain and exhaustion, I have first-hand experience with succumbing to the despair that all this triggers. 

Bottom line, chronic illness SUCKS BIG TIME!.  It absolutely has the power to rob you of your life, sense of humor, creativity, vitality, sanity, and the list goes on. 

Nothing about having your body feel like it has betrayed you and dealing with often misunderstood and under-recognized life-altering symptoms year after year is easy.  

On the other side of the coin, however, with chronic pain and illness come amazing opportunities for deep learning and transformation.  These opportunities, however, only appear to us if we are open and willing to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  A fixed mindset is when we are rigid, attached to outcomes, allow all of life's adversity (which there is plenty!) to continually level and define us, and live our lives in a state of contraction when things do not go as planned. 

Within a growth mindset we are flexible, we do not allow outcomes to dictate our lives or our self-worth, when setbacks happen we allow ourselves to feel the emotional pain but we also open ourselves up to the learning and transformation that can happen, and we understand that what we focus on grows bigger. 

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In my own healing journey as well as in my life, I was stuck in a fixed mindset and very attached to outcomes for a long time.  Instead of dedicating the majority of my free time to self-care and relaxing my mind so my body stood a chance at healing, I engaged in frantic internet researching about illness. 

I also kept participating in outrageously expensive "magic bullet" treatments that I believed were going to "fix" me without me making necessary lifestyle changes.  I fretted, ruminated, and engaged in destructive mind stories when things did not go as planned (which was almost every day to some degree).   

I continually got in the way of my own of healing! 

And, because of this, I not only remained ill but I grew sicker and sicker on all levels; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Additionally, the unhealthy vibrations and frequencies that I was generating within me and sending into the Universe kept coming back to me in the form of shitty situations and unhealthy relationships.  While I do not feel that our thoughts generate 100% of our reality, I truly do believe that our lives are direct reflections of the vibes we create and engage with within us.   By not opening my heart and mind and allowing illness to be my teacher, I continually contributed to creating even more dysfunction in my body and distress in my heart and soul.  

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It took me 16+ years to realize that that I had to shift my neurology and create new "scripts" for my nervous system to read from in order to heal my bio-chemistry and biology,  When I finally adopted a growth mindset about my health challenges, I slowly started to make progress in restoring my health and reclaiming my life; the right way! 

As I always used to tell the students I taught within my high school classroom, "The Teacher Appears When the Student is Ready."  Ironically, I needed to take my own advice! :)  In 2011, not that long ago, I was finally ready to allow chronic illness to be my greatest teacher and begin shifting the patterns within myself and in my life that were keeping me stuck in a stress-pain-illness cycle.   

Here is a list of the hard-won insights and wisdom that chronic illness has awarded me:

1. I need to always take full responsibility for myself, my health, and my life; regardless of the actions or inactions of others.

2. Blame and anger, unless turned into productive energy, do not serve me. Engaging with them over and over will only disempower me and make me sicker.

3. No practitioner or doctor can heal me nor is it their responsibility to do so. They can only be my guides and help me to create a roadmap. I must ultimately create the correct environments inside my body and in my life so health can follow.

4. I can't heal my body or life with the same level of consciousness or same behavior patterns in which I fell ill.

5. Chronic illness, if I allow it, serves as a mirror that reveals all aspects of myself and my life that no longer serve me.

6. Chronic illness, if I allow it, also acts as a flashlight that reveals all the unhealthy and unsupportive relationships in my life.

7. Symptoms and illness are my body's alarm system telling me that it is time to change what I am doing; not to take a pill to suppress it as quickly as possible.

8. Mental and emotional toxicity are every bit as destructive, and many times more so, than environmental toxicity.

9. No job or relationship is worth my mental, emotional, or physical health.

10. All chronic health challenges begin in the bio-energetic and emotional realms before they manifest in the physiological and bio-chemical realms.

11. In each moment I absolutely have the choice whether to engage with a stress-based thought or a supportive one.

12. Reprogramming the brain for wellness is an integral and necessary component to restoring my health. This takes conscious, daily practice and commitment. The body will NOT heal if the mind is not calm and on board.

13. What I focus on will absolutely grow bigger in my life!

14. When I make the same mistake over and over again; it is no longer a mistake. It is a choice. My choices become my habits. My habits define my life.

15. When people show their true colors to me I need to believe them.

16. I was one of my own biggest hurdles to healing. I continually got in my own way and weaved all sorts of mind stories that broke my body down.

17. There are no magic bullet treatment protocols that can fix me and I can't think and research myself out of being ill. The more I frantically researched, the more stressed and sicker I became.

18. The simple lifestyle factors such as sleep, grounding with the earth, daily movement, water, nutrition, and deep breathing are all way more important that I ever used to acknowledge them to be.

19. The only way to change my life is to change my daily habits.

20. The root of all suffering truly is driven by attachment to outcomes.

I would LOVE to know how your struggles with chronic illness have helped you to learn important life lessons and transform your life?

Cheers to Restoring Your Health and Reclaiming Your Life!