In 2014 I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease. For a long time I didn’t allow myself to call it a disease – not that I didn’t want to face reality. The sores in my mouth and throat didn’t allow me that luxury. But I knew how our beliefs and words can dictate how we feel and manifest problems if that’s what we focus on. (Example: I remember hearing a story about a doctor that died of cancer who used to work with Deepak Chopra. Feeling healthy, he’d had a routine x-ray where they found a spot on his lung, and within a matter of months he was gone. Later, as Dr. Chopra helped clean out his office, he found another x-ray that had been taken 20 years prior. It showed the same spot. It had not changed in size or shape. Apparently it had been overlooked the first time, and not knowing it was there, the doctor had no health problems – until they found the spot the second time. Once he believed he had cancer, he got sick).
When I first noticed the sensitivity in my mouth, I came up with several theories about what was going on. I have always been heavily invested in being healthy. I wasn’t supposed to get sick. I worked out, ate right most of the time, meditated and knew how to monitor my thoughts to adjust my mood and belief system. I managed to stay positive most of the time. I didn’t know another 64 year old who was as healthy.
But the process prior to the diagnosis was an emotional roller coaster. I stayed in denial for much longer than I like to admit. But when some of the docs I saw thought it was cancer, it brought me back to deal with reality. On one hand, it didn’t make sense – I was too healthy. But who says I’m any different or better than anyone else? I’m only human. Part of the human condition is vulnerability.
I usually don’t let myself worry about something until I know there’s something to worry about. I’d had a breast biopsy years before and never felt fear. I knew everything was OK, and it was. But this time what was going on in my mouth was not getting better, regardless of what I did. It’s difficult to not let yourself get frightened.
I don’t want to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m not the first or only person to go through an experience like this. I’ve had clients, friends & family members who have gone through much worse. Many have survived it all. I am inspired by their courage. I study their strength, humor and sheer bravery in how they approach life every day.
And I don’t mean for this to be just a blog about me. The point I’m trying to get across is that we all have to face distress. None of us will escape pain in this life. We’re not meant to. We don’t come here just for the joys – but to experience the pain and to learn the lessons it teaches us. It’s not lost on me that I came very close to an even scarier place. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to deal with cancer.
Not that the autoimmune disease is a piece of cake! It’s an ongoing struggle that I still take a day at a time. They don’t know what causes it, but I’ve learned what foods exacerbate it – almost everything! Some make the sores pop up and others just plain hurt to eat. I first chose to get better through the holistic route. But eventually it became clear that I also needed medication. The medication gradually got me back to feeling relatively normal, although the side effects of it are almost as difficult to manage as the disease itself. It’s caused pretty severe anemia at times, making it difficult to find the energy to work out or even to make it through a typcial work day. I’ve had to cut back on my client hours in order to have the energy to be present for all my clients. And I have had symptoms of another auto immune disease recently, that (according to the specialist I saw) were possibly caused by the medication also.
The point of this blog, though, is that If I believed this was the worst thing that ever happened to me, it would be. I still do my best to work out, meditate and eat right, although it’s not as easy as it once was. But if I can see it for what it is – a wake-up call that I needed to adjust my life so I can appreciate and live it to the fullest, it might just be one of the best things that has happened to me!
Today, at age 66, I am grateful for the opportunity for growth. This was another chance to see if the conclusions I’ve come to in my spiritual exploration are true for me. And to see if I have the courage and conviction to allow myself to be led in the direction that will advance my spirit.
I believe that’s why we come to this life. It doesn’t happen when everything goes the way I want it to or think it should. We all learn the best lessons by facing and accepting the crappy stuff. We gain strength by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and by moving through the pain.
What I say to myself and to others feeds my belief about my current life situation. Those beliefs can limit my life to the point where I isolate and withdraw – or they can liberate me to live it as fully as possible!