I was hoping this long overdue blog post would be sparked by an overflow of creative energy, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with appropriate frustration being a catalyst, so long as it’s channeled in an effective way. And while it is impossible for anyone to understand the challenges that one faces while living with chronic illness, I think it is important to bring attention to the repercussions from some of the unconscious/semiconscious societal beliefs (especially within ‘new-age spirituality’) that are backhandedly implicating that people with chronic illness are in some way, shape or form sick because they are ‘choosing’ to be. I too would like to take some responsibility for falling in and out of this pattern.
So often I have found myself thinking….
‘If only I was more in alignment with the universe (or my path.. whatever the fuck that is), if only I resolved ALL of my trauma… if I had a better attitude, tried harder, committed to brain retraining, understood my bodies signals, ate better, changed my energetic frequency, moved somewhere cleaner, devoted myself to helping others... on and on and on the list goes. This constant feeling of not living up to my ‘potential’, depending on others financially, and experiencing the darkest corners of what it is to be a human leaves me perpetually feeling like there is something deeply wrong with ‘me’ as a person. There is an ever-present unspoken suspicion that: THIS IS MY FAULT.
A brief story:
In April of this year I suddenly started to rapidly progress both physically and mentally over a period of a few months. I started surfing again, playing music, socializing and feeling joy (all HUGE milestones). Everyday things that had previously felt like moving a mountain were suddenly coming with ease. I was sobbing with gratitude on almost a daily basis while envisioning/seeing myself fully healed. I didn’t know if I was improving because of the protocol I was on, or simply because I was consciously choosing to focus my life around joy and connection. Regardless of why I was improving, I finally put down my guard and believed wholeheartedly ‘I am getting well’. And while I am ashamed to admit it, during this period of rapid transformation not only did my ego start taking a lot of credit, but I also started to view others who were still sick as being stuck (consciously or unconsciously) in some kind of negative energetic/emotional vortex that was keeping them from getting well. I thought to myself “If only they could see that they are in a self perpetuating cycle of illness…. If only they could see that their attitudes, choices and thoughts are keeping them sick… if only they could step out of fear mode…retrain their brain…get on the ‘right’ protocol, if only… if only … if only”
[Oh how I must LOVE big humbling slaps in the face]
Over a period of weeks (without changing anything) I started to backslide hard and fast. I kept thinking of that story where the neuroscientist (Jill Bolte Taylor) had a stroke and watched her mind unravel from a first person perspective. On some level she knew exactly what was happening, yet had absolutely no control over the loss of many functions in her brain (especially those in which she excelled in). Not only did all of my physical symptoms come back, but I also felt like an incredibly sane, grounded observer trapped in a brain AND body experiencing a dissociative/depressive/psychotic break. There was no lack of trying, or tools left unused (EFT, Hypnosis, self soothing/loving, brain retraining, energy healing, connecting with people, praying(?), and any medical treatment I saw fit) and yet I continued to get sicker on every level. It became apparent that my constant attempt to ‘will myself’ out of this hole was not working, and in a moment of complete surrender and defeat, it hit me:
This experience has NOTHING to do with effort, intelligence, resources or will. This has nothing to do with self-love, empowerment or the choices I am making. THIS ILLNESS (AND SUFFERING) IS NOT MY FAULT.
Because people with these illnesses (lyme, mold, ME, MCS, etc) are desperate for answers (and cures), and because these illnesses are far from being legitimately recognized by the medical establishment, we have become the perfect target market for deeming ourselves and being deemed as ‘spiritually/energetically ill’. And while I personally choose to look through the lens of this being a spiritual journey I am letting go of the idea that spirituality (or frame of mind) is the cause, or the solution. And while I recognize that attitude, and points of focus are crucially important to my healing process, I am letting go of any guilt or shame I have placed on myself for all the times I have been unable to choose ‘light and love’ in the midst of profound hopelessness and fear.
With that said, I want to talk about some problems that may arise from people failing to recognize that their health (mental and physical) and ability to pursue certain spiritual beliefs/paths is a privilege:
I don’t think there is malicious or passive/aggressive intent when people make suggestions or talk about things like: the power of manifestation, repairing DNA with intention, or even the idea that suffering comes from attachment to the ego, and by meditating and not identifying with the ‘I AM’, my experience of suffering could or would profoundly change. I am all for hearing about different modalities of healing, belief systems, or any information about what has worked for others, but when you offer a path as absolute, you also imply that the path I am currently on is ‘wrong’. I want to get this message across: Unless you have had everything you care about stripped away from you without your permission (brain, body, identity, possessions, talents, family, social life, basic human needs) and kept away from you, please do not offer any unsolicited advice about healing illness or shifting perspective. And while it is comforting to relate to one another, the truth is that no one (including those who are sick, or who have been sick) can truly know anyone else’s experience or path out of suffering. The best thing we offer each other is validation for individual truth, and the trust that different paths can be headed in the same direction.
I will end this with some ponderings that might be useful for anyone pursuing a spiritual path:
- How much room is there when it comes to making ‘choices’ or experiencing (and responding to) emotions when physiology is severely compromised in ways that mimic torturing a human (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually)? Is it possible to be experiencing all of this and not identify with or get caught up in the suffering?
- If being sick has to do with being out of alignment energetically or ‘calling this into ones life’, than what does that mean about kids born with autism, or people born in poverty ridden areas where starvation and disease are the norm?
- What lessons would Jesus and Buddha (or any ‘enlightened being’) be teaching had their bodies been riddled with infection, inflammation and neurotoxic substances? Would there be a different brand of ‘enlightenment’ had their basic needs been compromised, on top of experiencing an ongoing physiological shit storm comparable (and actually equivalent) to being perpetually drugged with mind/body altering substances?
- How can we pursue a spiritual path (focused on the ‘self’ or ‘nonself’) while simultaneously addressing the profound systemic injustice happening in regards to privilege?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!