How to stop fighting when you have a chronic illness
When we fight against chronic illness we waste huge amounts of energy, and yet it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to fight against adversity. The desire to take action to prevent our suffering is programmed into our DNA. In fact, it’s such a universal response, that many people with a chronic illness identify as a chronic illness warrior.
I decided a long time ago to stop identifying as a warrior, because fighting just isn’t helpful when you have a chronic illness. Fighting, striving and resistance all bring tension into the body which uses a lot more energy than being in a state of peace. We also need to be in the state of peace if we want to be able to direct our bodies resources to repair and wellbeing.
But how exactly do you stop the fight when its such a natural thing to do?
When you want to change the way you do things, it all starts with the why. To be successful at changing your behaviour, you need a clear motivation for why you want to do it. Ask yourself these two questions:
- How is the old way harming you?
- How will the new way benefit you?
The key to making a behaviour change possible (no matter how firmly programmed the old way is), is getting the message through to your subconscious that the new way serves your happiness and your health, and the old way only brings pain and misery. Once you have a strong awareness of the benefits of the new behaviour, it’s a case of looking out for opportunities to experiment with it, and paying lots of attention to any evidence that it serves your wellbeing.
I first learned to let go of the fight, through my interest in Taoist philosophy. I loved the idea that the best way to overcome a challenge was to understand it’s nature fully and use its own force against itself. I could see that the biggest harm came to me from using too much energy, so it seemed clear that the best way to tackle it was to not use too much energy. This was exciting as it seemed like something I had, at least some, control over. Taoist philosophy also taught me to be instead of do, to go with the flow, to be ‘one with the way’ and to have trust in ‘the way’. All these skills saved me so much energy that I was previously wasting on struggle, stiving and resistance. I noticed that when I let things be easy and trusted that it would all work out, my energy was lighter and it started to improve.
I discovered that trying to make things different was at least ineffective, if not completely futile. I’ve realised that whenever I get into the state of ‘what should or can I do to make this better?’ or whenever I’m stiving to make my self-help successful, I’m actually in a state of resistance and tension. However, when I can let go of the need to fight, when I can surrender and trust, I find the peace that allows me to reclaim that wasted energy. I also find that in this peaceful state, my body naturally nudges me to act with ease whenever I have the resources available to do so. I am, in fact, more effective when I listen to my fatigue and surrender to it; I become more capable sooner. This is why I call myself a thriver, I know that I get more out of my body, and more out of life by surrendering, trusting and going with the flow.
Want to spend time with other aspirational chronic illness thrivers? Come join my Facebook group Spoonies with Purpose: Making the Wold a Better Place Together