March 29, 2016

Facing a Diagnosis with Mindfulness: How I Learned to Love Dis-ease.

Monica H/Flickr

“When there is a great disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.” ~ Pema Chodron

Recently, I have had trouble accepting my entire life.

Big parts of it are quite different than I had imagined they would be. My health is stuck in a rut. I am a little dog chasing my own tail. Around and around I go, to end up right back where I started.

My mind tells me, “We need to get back there.” I am not exactly certain where “there” is, but it is apparently better than here.

Since my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue three years ago, every day has been a battle. But I suspect that I’ve been battling something or other my entire life, and now I just have a concrete enemy. Certain people are made like this. We innately put on armor and trample into any and all battlefields that appear.

I have never been good at letting things be. That’s probably why I was so drawn to mediation—I needed to learn to allow.

But, how can I do that with my doctor’s words still in my head: “30 years old and sick for the rest of your life.”

If I accept this, I would have to accept that many parts of the life I had are permanently over. And I am not ready to do this.

I continue to try and get underneath the smoke screen of this diagnosis.

It couldn’t just be that simple? I couldn’t just accept what they say?

All of my mindfulness training points to it, to letting what is, be.

But this, I don’t know if I can allow this?

I feel right up against the wall of illness. My face is snug to the cold, solid and damp bricks of its construction. In the past, if I pushed hard enough I could move whatever was in my way. I could conquer anything. Now when I push, I end up in bed or flat on the floor.

This sickness has become my teacher, but I didn’t expect this to be the classroom it would place me in.

Buddhists teachings say to lean into discomfort and pain, so I lean into my wall. It is cool and hard and smells of musty earth. I dream that I am trapped in a nightmare that I am not able to wake up from.

I try to befriend this nightmare:

Be grateful for all the love in my life, for my family and partner and friends.

I want to heal though, for my family, partner and friends.

And for the woman who used to be able to conquer anything.

I am watching the rain slowly fall outside my bedroom window. Life keeps going. It doesn’t head to sickness or health. It treats them the same and flows evenly through both.

I lean into fear, my fear of being sick forever. I feel the familiar gripping in my chest and something speaks. “Okay, this too,” it whispers.

I find a quote from the book on my dresser, The Wisdom of No Escape, by Pema Chodron. I have folded over the page because it struck me so.

“Loving kindness towards ourselves does not mean getting rid of anything.”

This is the practice of Maitri, developing loving kindness towards ourselves. Perhaps that means this.

Perhaps, I have to learn to love this too.

Perhaps, I need learn to love it all.


I wrote this almost a year ago and since then, I have been working on this mantra every day: Learn to love it all.

I am stronger and brighter than I was and there are days when I jump out of bed. I am still not the “me” I used to be, running and adventuring afar, but I am growing and healing into something just as beautiful and certainly more wise.

Today, I can say that I love every inch, ounce and throbbing cell of me.

My path continues to unfold, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia or not.

I come back regularly to another meditation teaching: What we thought was solid under our feet, will continually be pulled. Our universe is a reflection of our thoughts, malleable and ever changing.

I understand now that this is what creates the evolution of spirit—transformation hides under unexpected labels.

Like the buds I see on the tree outside my window, I am certain I am ready to bloom. I’ve never felt like that in my life before.

Today, I sat and meditated with that budding tree. I could feel the sap in my body similar to the sap in her limbs. We were both amping up our juice for a new season of life to begin. I kissed that tree this morning and I also gave my diagnosis a smooch.

If this is my path, I will love it—whatever its name may be.


Author: Sarah Norrad

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Monica H./Flickr






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