Getting Sick to Get Better

Sometimes in life we have to get sick before we get better. I believe illness is a communication, and to recover we have to first acknowledge what precisely is being communicated before we can respond to it.

Recovery from illness is a process that happens over time, it requires that we dig deep; not intellectually but on an emotional level with depth and feeling.

Last year I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The diagnosis was long and drawn out and during that time I took full ownership of the illness and each of the symptoms. I suppose I would say now I almost embraced these symptoms as I started each day by welcoming them into my body. I looked for pain, scanning my body, joints and muscles, not trusting that I could have a pain free day. I suffered exhaustion, brain fog and depression, I didn’t trust my legs to carry me or feet not to trip, and you know what? My body responded to my expectations.

My language, both what I said out loud and my internal dialogue, was programmed for sickness. I told myself I always hurt, I told myself I couldn’t manage, I wouldn’t manage and there was no hope. I told myself my illness wouldn’t go away, I would have to learn to accept it, this is what the rheumatologist told me, so I believed it. I allowed it to define me.

I didn’t get sick overnight, I got sick over a long period of time. Although it appeared that the illness showed up all of a sudden, through diving deep into myself I can acknowledge now it was a response to a traumatic period in my life, life events I thought I could quite easily cope with and absorb. I couldn’t deal with it, and it took its toll knocking me sideways when I least expected it.

I had been riding my bike ten miles a day, getting up to photograph the sunrise each day, I felt full of life. Within weeks I couldn’t ride a quarter of a mile without crying, I didn’t know why, there wasn’t any pain at the time, but I didn’t have it in me to go any further.

My recovery took time and attention, a journey I’m still on but now more aware of and therefore more able to manage. I am in recovery, I am building myself up again by approaching the whole system – the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of who I am. I have changed my diet to whole food plant based vegan and changed my mindset; I no longer tell myself I’m sick, I tell myself I’m in recovery, that I’m improving every day and I am, I absolutely believe this. I’ve dived deep into my own self development and from this growth began to climb out of that dark place.

Illness in any form is a message of care, a signal, the body saying ‘NO, listen to what I’m telling you now’. It is a pause, a break and if not acknowledged occasionally a full stop. I’ve learnt now to connect to my body to listen to its messages.

Gabor Mate, renowned speaker and best-selling author on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development speaks of the correlation between autoimmune disease and early coping strategies. He tells us, or rather points out that hard science has shown us that the immune system, the emotional apparatus known as the psyche, and nervous system are not separable, but different manifestations of the same system. Therefore it is imperative that we treat the whole system – treat the whole body
and mind.

Our bodies are incredible vehicles, they mould the spirit, grow around us as we mature and protect us from attack by the use of internal defence mechanisms. When things happen to us at an emotional level, they have an impact on the immune system too.

Many long-term illnesses and autoimmune conditions are connected to early trauma or significant stress in life. An example being a child who disassociating from trauma at an early age as a form of protection, experiencing physical and mental health as an adult as an outcome of this early coping mechanism.

Many of the people I have worked with have suffered unresolved trauma at some point in their lives, often in childhood. I’ve always understood the impact of trauma, it’s been part of my work for many years, but not until recently did I bring it home to myself.

Children can often take on the bad things that are happening around them, blaming themselves and believing it is all about them or because of them, they then compensate by developing coping mechanisms to manage and protect themselves which can have longer term consequences in later life.

Stress throughout our life impacts on the body, it’s often said that stress is a killer and I believe this because I’ve witnessed it first-hand. Our immune system is not separate, ancient practices such as Shamanism, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have always told us the mind and body are inseparable, yet in Western medicine we still separate them.

I take notice of my body today, listen to what it tells me, I watch for those early signals. I focus on me, how my body feels. I am emotionally competent and face life and its offerings with all my senses.

I’m a coach and a big part of my work is helping people in terms of health and wellbeing, it’s important to me that I can use my own story and understanding into assisting others, give it a reason for showing up.

Liza Aitken

Life and Wellness Coach
Resting in the Heart