Despite this culture’s obsession with good health, people get sick.
Published on July 12, 2011 by Toni Bernhard, J.D. in Turning Straw Into Gold
In 2001, I got sick with what the doctors initially thought was an acute viral infection. I have yet to recover. Diagnosis: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—a little-understood illness that is as debilitating as its more justly named cousins that also compromise the immune and neurological systems. My case is particularly severe. I feel as if I have the flu without the fever—24/7. It is so disabling that I was forced to give up my beloved career as a law professor.
At first, I blamed myself for not recovering, as if it were a failure of will, somehow. In addition, I was embarrassed that I wasn’t the picture of good health. This sometimes led me to hide my condition, often to the detriment of my health because I’d fail to take action to care for myself properly.
These two reactions—blaming ourselves for our health difficulties and hiding them from others—are not surprising, given the barrage of media stories and advertisements telling us that good health is within our control: we need only exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. This simply isn’t always the case. We’re in bodies, and bodies are subject to illness, injury, and aging despite our best attempts to follow these “prescriptions” for good health.
How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers
This life-affirming, instructive and thoroughly inspiring book is a must-read for anyone who is—or who might one day be—sick. And it can also be the perfect gift of guidance, encouragement, and uplifting inspiration to family, friends, and loved ones struggling with the many terrifying or disheartening life changes that come so close on the heels of a diagnosis of a chronic condition or even life-threatening illness.
The author—who became ill while a university law professor in the prime of her career—tells the reader how she got sick and, to her and her partner’s bewilderment, stayed that way. Toni had been a longtime meditator, going on long meditation retreats and spending many hours rigorously practicing, but soon discovered that she simply could no longer engage in those difficult and taxing forms. She had to learn ways to make “being sick” the heart of her spiritual practice—and through truly learning how to be sick, she learned how, even with many physical and energetic limitations, to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. And whether we ourselves are sick now or not, we can learn these vital arts of living well from How to Be Sick.
More Info: How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Amazon.com)
The author, Toni Bernhard, can be found online at www.howtobesick.com