How to Be Sick by Toni Bernhard

 

Here’s a thing: coming up in March it will be ten years since I first fell ill.  At first, we thought it was a simple flu.  And then I ended up with severe post-viral fatigue.  And then everything else – the headaches, the joint pain, the sleep disturbances.  Cue two years of struggling through, with the eventual diagnosis of lupus/rheumatoid arthritis (depending on who you’re talking to; for me, the treatment is the same) and fibromyalgia.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a decade.  This illness was part of the reason that I didn’t pursue a career in science.  This illness put me on a disability pension after I finished my PhD.  This illness has limited my life, but thankfully, has been treated well enough that I’ve been able to put my life back together, albeit not in the fashion I always thought I’d live.  Despite it, I have continued to write, and run a household.  Thanks to the support of my husband and family, I’ve been able to have a son.

And yet.  Despite all of this, despite getting the right treatment, despite therapy, despite everything, I’ve still found in myself a lot of anger about being ill in the first place.  This book is the  first thing that I’ve discovered that has given me some peace with that illness.

I owe a great debt to an online friend who pointed me towards this book (as well as the facebook group that was created to help people work through the book).  I am not a Buddhist, and I thought at first that would be a problem with working through the book and implementing work from it.  And yet, I didn’t ever find that to be a problem,  Bernhard’s style is so open and easy to read, integrating some of her own Buddhist practice in easy ways to help find some peace.  I’ve found myself incorporating several of the practices into my life since finishing it, and have found that they’ve given me a lot of peace.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with a chronic illness, or to anyone supporting someone with a chronic illness.  I don’t believe that anyone should stop fighting to find a way past illness, but there is a lot of peace in acceptance of it at the worst times.

2 thoughts on “How to be sick

  1. I got a bit bogged down in all of the lists and practices, but it might be useful to reread the first few chapters.

  2. I think it is very humbling not to be able to do what you want when you want as much as you want. We used to be able to do that as cdrilehn and now I find each stage of life brings me new adjustments. And some of my illnesses like fibromylgia and degenerative disc disease have limited me before my time learning to accept the things you cannot change and listen to your body can be a hard lesson to learn at times but well worth it when you finally do. I find if I can focus more on what I CAN do than what I can’t then I listen better! Blessings to you. Thanks for your prayers and friendship. You are in my prayers as well.

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