You Can’t Rush Your Healing (And Other Lessons From Chronic Illness)

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you can’t rush your healing
darkness has its teachings
love is never leaving
you can’t rush your healing

You Can’t Rush Your Healing, Trevor Hall

I have always believed that things happen for a reason. Actually, I’m even more “woo-woo” than that – I believe our souls choose to have certain human experiences in this life in order to grow and evolve. (Even if it’s not true, it gives me so much peace and allows me to let others have their own journey, so I am happy to keep believing!) But I have to be honest and say during this illness there have been times when this belief wavered. I tried and tried to find the “lesson”, the reason for me being sick and in pain. I thought that once I found the lesson, I would get better. This resulted in me getting more and more frustrated when I couldn’t figure it out and my symptoms continued to worsen. But I have since realised that the lessons actually don’t come from resisting, fighting or beating this illness – the truest, deepest lessons have come from accepting the pain, accepting the illness and flowing with it. As Trevor Hall says, darkness has it’s teachings.

You can’t rush your healing…

Chronic illness feels like the ultimate surrender. Nothing is certain and there are no easy answers or quick-fixes. I do not know why I have this disease. I do not know for sure how to stop it from growing back, or how much time I have until it does. I never know how I will feel from one minute to the next. Literally. I know that I am healing after my surgery but certainly not as quickly and smoothly as I would like. It comes in spurts and starts. In this blog post the Medical Medium described healing as being like dancing the cha-cha, one step forward and two steps back. It’s a perfect analogy. Just when I feel like I’m getting back to normal, my energy is returning and I start to feel like my sparkly self, I will suddenly have a pain flare up and be bed-ridden for a whole day. And so, all I can do is surrender. Appreciate the moments of freedom from pain, and appreciate the times when I am home in bed with my beautiful fur baby learning the meaning of deep rest. And oh what a glorious gift it is to give myself full permission to deeply, deeply rest!

… But you CAN take charge of your healing

When I first learned about endometriosis, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed, defeated, exasperated… Suddenly the constant pain and fatigue I was experiencing wasn’t a temporary problem that would go away once I knew what was going on. Suddenly it was a lifelong battle, a CHRONIC illness that would always be with me, one way or another. I was lucky enough to have absolutely amazing doctors but even they had very limited management options after surgery – heavy pain killers and hormonal birth control. I knew this strategy would take a huge toll on my already depleted body and even the doctor’s themselves acknowledged it may not even work. I’ve always been a big believer in using alternative healing options whenever possible. So I began to research and consume everything – podcasts, books, research papers, documentaries, blogs – I could about healing chronic illness naturally. It seemed like I had very little to lose by throwing myself into every alternative healing method possible. Even before I noticed physical improvements (which have been miraculous), I noticed mental and emotional improvements – I had a new sense of purpose, empowerment and freedom. I wasn’t a powerless victim. I could take charge and support my body to heal itself!

People-pleasing takes way too many spoons

There is a great analogy about chronic illness that uses spoons to convey the amount of energy it takes to do daily tasks. It’s called spoon theory, created by a teenager living with Lupus. While someone who is perfectly healthy might wake up with almost unlimited spoons (energy), someone with chronic illness might wake up with a much smaller number. And the number can fluctuate wildly from day to day. Therefore, even the smallest of tasks like showering or brushing their teeth could take up a huge amount of their daily energy. This theory has been super helpful for me in explaining my energy levels to those around me. I might say, “I didn’t wake up with many spoons today” or “If I do that it will use up all my spoons”. One of the biggest energy-draining elements that had to go as soon as my health started to decline was saying yes when I really meant no. In other words, my chronic pain has forced me to give up my chronic people-pleasing. Of course I still care deeply about my friends and family, but since my health is my biggest priority right now, I cannot afford to use up the precious energy I do have doing anything that will drain me unnecessarily.

Love is never leaving

During my Year of Kindness adventures I realised that for me the most challenging act of kindness was kindness to self. As my health began to deteriorate, I was stunned to realise just how much self-worth I still place on being the “over-giver”. It was a deeply uncomfortable experience to feel I could not give as much (love, support, help) as I was receiving (in fact, the discomfort inspired this whole post). But it was a magical unfolding to realise even when I was sick and could barely get out of bed, the people who truly love me just kept right on loving me, while expecting nothing in return. My love languages have always been quality time and physical touch, but when I was unable to do things for myself the most valued love language became acts of service. My loved ones were more than happy to help me with physical tasks, come and stay with me, take me to appointments, cook me food, send me extra cute animal videos to make me smile… Their love for me did not diminish simply because I was bedridden or in pain. Their love felt deeper, stronger, more focused than ever before. There was a new level of gentleness and gratitude between me and my loved ones that I would never have gotten to experience without this illness. And it is no coincidence that this happened simultaneously to me learning how to love myself on a deeper level than ever before. I needed a strong sense of self-worth in order to ask for help, and graciously receive it. 

So, what has your chronic illness taught you?

9 thoughts on “You Can’t Rush Your Healing (And Other Lessons From Chronic Illness)

  1. Georgia

    Hello there!

    I had my surgery on May 10th. My healing also takes time, so I thought of sending you in a way to say that you are not alone 🙂 Much of your journey reminds mine, and I only recently discovered your posts. I have very similar thoughts. I think this whole situation is teaching me to love and accept myself, be present, see the everyday miracles in life. I don’t have answers, my super analytical mind is not in use anymore, but I am enjoying it. Maybe that’s what life is about. You don’t have answers, it’s a mystery unfolding, and I am part of it. It’s beautiful, with all its darkness and all the light. Here is my woo-woo 🙂 !

    We can do it, sending some positive thoughts from an endo-sister.

    • Hi Georgia!
      Thankyou so much for your lovely comment. My surgery was about a month after yours – June 17th. That’s so beautiful that you can find some positive lessons in the experience. You’re so right that life is a mystery and sometimes it helps to let go of our analytical mind. Positive vibes right back at you! We’ve got this.
      Cat

  2. I have grown up with chronic pain, but because it is in my eyes, I never appreciated how much physical energy it drained when I was struggling. I pushed through for many years, and only in my mid to late twenties did I begin to recognise that I should respect my chronic pain condition for what it is, and allow myself to rest and to say no to people when I needed. I am still learning, because it is very difficult to put down my device or book and simply rest when my eyes hurt, but I feel much better when I do have some space to recuperate.

    • Thankyou so much for sharing your experiences. I often wonder how different things must be for those who have had chronic pain all of their lives. It seems only natural to resist the reality of the pain and try to push through, but what sweet relief to truly give ourselves permission to rest!

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