Spirituality and Chronic Illness
I have come across so many people who like myself have had profound spiritual growth from their journey with fibromyalgia or other chronic illnesses. Personally, I was in the beginning of significant spiritual growth (aka my spiritual awakening) a few years before I got diagnosed. This spiritual awakening was prompted for me by several factors. I think my extreme emotional and physical pain at the time coupled with life deciding that I was ready to step into my spirituality prompted this awakening for me. I am so grateful for this part of my life that has changed me significantly. I am also grateful for all the pain and obstacles in my life that broke me open enough to step into this beautiful space. After getting diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my spirituality has helped to guide me every step toward healing and recovery both through the good and bad days.
Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, I want to share some of my spiritual tips that help me live and navigate through life as a woman living with fibromyalgia. I encourage you to take some of my tips and make them your own. A practice or belief has to resonate with you and feel good which I believe is always a basic guideline of spirituality.
Tip # 1 ~ Let it be.
As the Beatles once sang, “let it be…let it be”. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just let the pain be. Often when we fight it, we make it worse. When we fight our pain we have a tendency to often emotionally react with anger and sadness, we identify with the pain, we shut our self down, we enter fight or flight mode and we begin to live from a negative space.
But what happens when you instead decide to sit with your pain? You slowly start to see the pain as a separate entity and not part of you. You can then have a healthy relationship with the pain. You no longer have to hate it. You can now begin to understand it and look at it from a new angle. You can cultivate compassion to yourself and your pain. Your pain will begin to soften and you will be able to live with it in a new way.
Tip # 2 ~ Let go.
When I say let go I certainly do not mean of the hope of getting better and feeling your best. That is something you certainly should not let go of. What I mean by this is the letting go of having to have all the answers within a set time frame. Letting go of that feeling of urgency to put all the pieces together and get better immediately.
For years I had been running around to doctors, searching for answers and yearning for a diagnosis of my mystery health problems. I got to the point where I spent about eight months going crazy searching and was tested like a lab rat over and over again to have people look me in the face and tell me I am perfectly fine. This story is one that many people with a chronic illness have told many times. Anyway, the New Year was coming around the corner and I decided that my resolution was to just let go. This was not me waiving the white flag what so ever. I still wanted to get answers and get better. Rather this was me deciding I could not force the answers and their timing. I could not force my healing. I came to terms with the fact that I was causing myself more stress and anxiety by the pushing and the forcing. I think a lot of us with fibromyalgia or chronic pain are those type A personalities that have pushed and pushed and then pushed some more through life. I just decided to stop the pushing and stop gripping on so hard. And three weeks later, after over eight years of searching, I finally got my diagnosis. Everything started falling into place for me. I also found my coach right away who I began working with immediately and slowly getting better. I truly do believe it took me letting go to get some answers that I had been searching hard for. I encourage you to do the same wherever you are in your journey.
Tip # 3 ~ Love yourself even more.
It is so easy when you are suffering with a chronic illness to hate yourself. You hate your body for failing you. You hate yourself for not being strong enough to fight it. You hate yourself for not having the answers. You start to compare yourself to others. Why does everyone have so much energy? What is wrong with me you ask? Why am I not healing? These negative thoughts about yourself start circling through your mind. Eventually the more you think these self destructive thoughts the more they become how you identify with yourself. You are filling your body and mind with hate toward yourself instead of the love and compassion you deserve and need to get better.
You need to immediately catch yourself in these self destructive thoughts and replace them with thoughts of love. You need to be kind to yourself the way you would to a loved one. This is imperative for your healing.
There are many ways to cultivate self-love. I would love to help you find what works for you.
Tip # 4 ~ Live in Joy.
Joy is a state of mind. Living from a place of joy has nothing to do with what is externally going on in your life and has only to do with what is internally happening. Why is this important? Well it is your life and you might as well start living joyfully now. Where ever your mountain peeks is right now unknown. As you continue to climb bring joy to the journey. This will sure beat feeling miserable and sad everyday.
If you are wondering how you can possibly feel joy while having severe discomfort that is good question. But the answer is simple. Just choose to live in a state of joy. It is a choice. This does not mean you cannot feel or embrace your pain. Embrace it and sit with it as mentioned above. But don’t dwell in a place of sadness. Honor your pain and then move forward to a place of joy.
There are some good techniques for harnessing the feeling of joy but the first step is making a choice to live in this state of being.
Tip # 5 ~ Learn.
What is your chronic illness telling you? Listen and learn so you can grow as a person. Let your pain give you wisdom and possibly even teach you some of your greatest life lessons.
Before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia my mind was on autopilot going as fast and hard as I could pretty much all the time. I was raised to be an over achiever and that is what I thought I always had to do. I pushed myself to my limit at all points in time to achieve. Did I stop to smell the roses? Seldom. Did I stop to ask myself what it was in life that I really even wanted? No I didn’t have time to. I just kept plowing through life and I probably would have kept this up until I was on my death bed if it were not for my fibromyalgia. I could have literally lost my whole life in the name of achieving. Fibromyalgia for this reason in many ways saved my life. It forced me to slow down and smell the roses and question what I really want in this life of mine.
The best way to listen and learn is really to incorporate some of the other tips mentioned such as sitting with your pain, loving yourself and living in a state of joy. These tips allow you to open up and soften. When we are more open, less rigid and practice self love, we are in the position to learn. We have make room to take in the lessons from our chronic illness. You can also ask yourself and ask your body, what is it that I am suppose to learn? Journaling is a great way to have this conversation with yourself.
I wish you the best on your journey and hope you find these tips useful. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need help incorporating spirituality into your life and healing.