5 Things I Learned From Having a Chronic Illness

What I Learned From Having a Chronic Disease

19th July 2016

By Christina Lavers

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Seven years ago, when I emerged from the doctor’s office after having my worst fears confirmed, I knew that I had some big decisions to make. With the words “most likely Multiple Sclerosis” reverberating around my mind I felt shaky and nauseas. I wanted to crawl into bed and drown in a deluge of tears and despair. This was not how I had envisaged my charmed life unfolding. I was with the love of my life and we had a nine month old baby; this was supposed to be the happily ever after part.

That night lying in the bath I could feel my body throbbing with fear. My mind was busy fielding the images that surfaced and threatened to overtake me: the slow degeneration of my body, the social pity, and all the dreams that would now never be. Then, at one point I felt compelled to raise my arms in the air and slowly wave them around. Though I knew it seemed mad, the urge was strong and I followed the call. As I let a slow organic flow move my upper limbs I felt the first glimpse of hope since I left the doctor’s office. This movement that emanated from deep within seemed to calm my mind and made me feel that maybe this illness had deeper implications.

The next day I decided to face my fears head on. I had been doing extensive research trying to figure out what might be going on with my body. Though references to MS had often appeared in my searches of symptoms, up until then I largely ignored them, thinking that there was no way such a fate could be mine. Now that I knew the reality, I delved in and began exploring the mysterious, frightening world of MS.

One of the first things that struck me was the way most people seemed to speak of MS, and disease in general, as something evil that had to be beaten. This did not fit into my world view. Fighting felt like a low vibration approach that promoted a dualistic view of myself in relation to the illness. I wanted a loving approach, not a fear based one.

Just before my symptoms had manifested I had been doing some deep emotional work and had finally accessed an elusive wounded aspect hiding down in the dark recesses of my being. I had promised this part that I would no longer neglect it; I would work to heal. Though I had seen this as a metaphorical situation, it appeared that my body had taken it more literally; this crippled aspect had risen to the surface and could no longer be ignored.

When I looked at my illness from this perspective, as a physical manifestation of emotional wounds, the idea vilifying it, seeing it as something to dominate and conquer felt backwards and cruel. I decided instead that I would see my condition as a teacher instead of an enemy. I had long perceived my life as a magical journey in which I was connected to and guided by the universe. Initially this situation had made me feel as though I had been forsaken, but the more I allowed myself to accept my circumstances, the more it made sense. This condition hadn’t occurred as a punishment, or because I had done something wrong, but because it had something to teach me, and though it seemed highly undesirable, it actually had many gifts to offer.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

I learned to honour my body. I had long been interested in health, but developing MS symptoms forced me to take this to a new level. I realized how often I neglected the gentle calls of my body when they were inconvenient. Even a simple message like ‘I’m thirsty,’ would often be ignored if my mind was happily engaged in some pursuit or other. Now my body became like a highly sensitive machine that if not cared for would immediately see an exacerbation of my symptoms. Along the way I have learned so much about health and nutrition and the personal requirements of my mind and body that in many respects I actually feel healthier now than I did before MS entered my life.

I learned the effect that fear has on my physical, mental and spiritual well being. When I allow myself to wallow in self-pity and fear, symptoms quickly worsen; if I focus on the positive things in my life that give me joy, I feel better. I have a gorgeous, amazingly supportive partner; a beautiful, healthy child; friends and family who love and care for me; and generally so much to be grateful for. This is where I need to put my energy and focus.

I learned to trust myself at an even deeper level. Though specialists encouraged me to follow the standard medical protocol, the idea of stifling the symptoms, which I had come to see as a means for my body to communicate with me, felt intuitively wrong. How could I honour the needs of my body, if communication was disabled? I knew there was no absolute right or wrong approach. Different people have different paths and the important thing is that we do what feels right for us on an individual basis. Though initially it felt daunting to ignore the authority of the conventional medical profession, I gradually came to trust that my body has a wisdom of its own. I felt empowered and gained confidence in my ability to discern what was right for me. I still take guidance from professionals, but not if it doesn’t feel in alignment with my inner voice.

I learned that I don’t have to be defined by my illness. Having a chronic condition can sometimes feel all consuming, but there is so much more to who I am than my symptoms. Everyone has trials and tribulations in life, and we all have choices in terms of how we approach them. We can either allow our issues to define us, or we can use them as tools to help guide us into alignment with a more loving, more whole, and more meaningful version of ourselves.

Finally, I learned the importance of trusting and embracing the process. Some days I felt great and it was easy to feel optimistic, others days my symptoms would worsen without any clear reason, and I would find myself going into fear. With time I learned to stop worrying, even when things appear not to be going in the direction I desire. Sometimes the healing process requires symptoms to worsen before they get better, other times I just need to pay a bit more attention to what my body is telling me, and either way, allowing myself to become overwhelmed by fear never helps anything. Sometimes things happen for reasons that only become clear later. For example, one year when my symptoms took a turn for the worse I had to spend a lot of time in bed. Unable to do many of the things that previously would have filled my day I began to write. During that year I ended up writing a book — Jump Into The Blue — that I’d always felt called to share. So while it was difficult on many levels, that year was pivotal in pushing me towards manifesting my dreams. Similarly, my husband through researching ways to assist me ended up discovering his own life passion. He has become an expert in the art of fermentation and now teaches others how to use these ancient techniques to promote their own health.

Final thoughts:

In reality there is no perfect fairytale happily ever after. I believe we are here to learn and grow, and whether we like it or not, it is often life’s challenges that push us to dig deeper and find our own personal gold. I think ultimately the important thing to remember when faced with any trial is that we have a choice in terms of perspective, and the choice we make will define the experience. If we adopt a positive, empowering approach we will be much more likely to uncover the gifts that lie beneath the surface of the hurdles we are faced with

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

About the author:

Christina Lavers

Christina Lavers is a writer, an artist, a creative enthusiast, and an inner world explorer. Born in Montreal Quebec, Canada, she now lives with her life partner and son in a rainforest pocket in the hills behind Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia. She spends her time playing, creating, growing and sharing.

Christina is devoted to assisting people to find and connect with their own creative magical current that flows deep within. She is now offering a comprehensive e-course designed to help people light up their world with passion and creativity. You can access Section One here for free!

Christina has also recently published her first full length book, a memoir about her wild awakening journey entitled Jump Into the Blue, and she is currently working on the next one.

“My journey has been about personal alchemy… exploring the mysteries of my soul and my environment, and learning to bring all aspects, the light and the dark, together with the transcending ingredient… love. The more I uncover and nurture the wounded aspects of my being, the more whole and grounded I feel and the more my outer world reflects the love, wonder and magic I have discovered inside”.

You can follow Christina’s work at:

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Dream




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