Coping with Chronic Illness
by Diane Linsley
In 2018, I had an OBE in which I saw 25 years into the future. I was
deeply disturbed to see that a huge percentage of the population
suffered from autoimmune disease. I wondered how such a thing
could have happened, and the only explanation I could think of was
a nuclear disaster.
As I'm updating this article in 2021, I have another theory. Here's a
undoubtedly see this problem increase dramatically. Here's another
My Experience with Chronic Illness
After contracting Epstein-Barr virus at age 20, I developed a variety
of autoimmune diseases. Eventually, I began to wonder if maybe
all of these different diseases were really just the same thing.
After being diagnosed with Graves' disease in 2016, I read The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers. This book doesn't answer the question of what causes autoimmune disease, but it does explain how these seemingly separate diseases are all the same thing, and how autoimmune disease progresses. For a few years, I did well on the diet in Dr. Myers' book. But after the stress of 2020, my health took a turn for the worse. Then a client recommended the Medical Medium books, which gave me more information. I'm also doing hydrogen peroxide therapy, which is helping.
The most difficult thing about chronic illness is the psychological impact. I've been told by people that "there's something wrong with me." I've been accused of being a hypochondriac. I've been accused of being a bad person who is being punished by God. I've been accused of having done something wrong in a past life to deserve this "bad karma."
Those are things that ignorant and uncompassionate people say to explain what they don't understand. I believe that they are secretly afraid it could happen to them.
I believe in the goodness of God and the universe. When trying to understand why something happened to me, I look at the positive results of it. In other words, what have I learned from this long-term suffering, and how has it made me a better person? I can make a long list of learnings and character traits that are the result of my experiences.
An Enlightening Dream
In 2018, I had a dream that helped me cope with the psychological pain of chronic illness.
In the dream, I entered a room with seven rough and mean-looking men, along with an older woman who appeared to be in charge. We were sitting in a circle, and the woman asked me to think of something in my life that caused me to feel shame, and then tell my story to the group.
I felt nervous, and I replied, "Give me a minute to think." There were plenty of things that I felt ashamed about, but not many that I was willing to talk about to a group of intimidating men. Then I got the idea to talk about my chronic illness. I told them the following story:
I've had a variety of health problems for many years. Some of my health problems cause chronic pain. Others cause intermittent fatigue. They stop me from doing some of the things that healthy people do. I live a quiet, low-key life, and I focus on taking care of my health every day.
At this point, one of the men grunted with disgust. I realized that all of the men were disgusted with me. They thought I was pathetic. But the teacher had given me an assignment, so I plowed ahead:
There are people who don't want to be friends with me because I'm not exciting enough for them. Some people accuse me of not having faith in God (or the Law of Attraction, if that's their thing) because if I really had faith, I would have been healed by now.
Other people avoid me because my health problems trigger their fear of death. They don't want me around because it reminds them of their own mortality and their vulnerability as human beings, which they are desperately trying to avoid.
I have to follow a very strict diet. When I go to parties, I bring my own food. Some people are offended by this, but I've learned to stop worrying what other people think and just take care of myself.
At this point in my story, I was starting to feel less shame and more excitement about my topic. But the audience seemed irritated that I was talking about chronic illness with increasing optimism. A mean-looking man sitting across from me stood up and started putting on his coat, preparing to leave. The teacher told him to sit back down and listen. I said, "You can leave if you want. You have your freedom." He sat down. I guess if I wanted him to leave, he was going to stay. I continued: I once had a near-death experience, and I met the Light at the end of the tunnel. It took years for me to integrate the experience, and it changed my life. I had to rewrite my whole map of reality to take into account the new information I gained. It changed my beliefs about life, death and spirituality. Best of all, I'm no longer afraid of death. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
At this point, a burly man sitting next to me interrupted. He protested that I was using big words, which made me an intellectual snob. But I had just gotten to the good part, and I was determined to finish. I asked him to please be quiet or leave because I wasn't done yet. Frankly, I was surprised at my own assertiveness. After all, these were tough-looking men! I continued:
I'm not in a hurry to die. I love my family and friends, and I want to stay here as long as my soul requires it of me. I'm excited about life, and I want to achieve my life purpose to the best of my ability. When I meet the Light again, I will be happy to show it everything I've learned.
I know that the Light loves me unconditionally and does not judge me. I discovered in the tunnel that I am the one who judges myself. I was forgiven for everything in my past, as well as everything in my future. That blew me away because I was forgiven for things I hadn't even done yet!
This makes it possible for me to make big changes in my life and move forward at a rapid pace without fearing that I might do it wrong. It's impossible for me to make a mistake that would prevent the Light from loving me.
When I do something that could be called a mistake, the future shifts to accomodate it, and new opportunities appear. There's no way I can fail because there is always another opportunity. Even death is not a failure. It's just a new avenue of growth in another dimension.
At this point, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for my life. None of these realizations would have come to me without my health problems. How could I ever be ashamed of my health problems again? I didn't even feel ashamed in front of this group of mean men.
As I began to wake up, I immediately started to do dream analysis. The first thing I realized was that the men represented my Inner Critic. The men attempted to shame and silence me in many ways - by avoiding eye contact, interrupting me, threatening to walk out, and refusing to acknowledge or support what I was saying. (Hey, that sounds like the narcissists in my life....) The dream gave me an opportunity to talk back to my inner critic. It also helped me feel gratitude for my blessings. Maybe I could only feel that much gratitude while in the dream state with the waking ego turned off. Recalling the dream after I awoke made the unconscious feelings of gratitude conscious.
The Challenges of Chronic Illness
Chronic illness is a challenge that we would prefer to do without. But like all challenges, it contains within it an opportunity to advance our consciousness. Research shows that people with the highest levels of cognitive development are those who have overcome the most difficult challenges. One of my favorite books is Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber, which is the story of Treya Wilber's five-year battle with breast cancer. It's an inspiring story of personal growth. I know how incredibly discouraging it is to live with chronic illness. And it's okay to get upset about it. Once in a while, I have a little rant, and then I do some Voice Dialogue or the emotional healing process. When I'm ready to come back to a more positive view, I think of famous people who also suffered. I appreciate this story about Fyodor Dostoyevski. He said, "To be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart - that's what life is all about, that's its task."
As a life coach, I use many different processes to help
people with their personal growth. Click here if you are
Copyright (c) Self-Compassion Coaching with Diane Linsley. All rights reserved.