Releasing the Shame I Felt for Being Ill as a Former Health Coach
Gosh, this is a hard one. A tricky one. You see, I used to be a health coach. I lived, breathed and drank from the life of health and wellness. Getting sick with a serious chronic illness wasn’t exactly on my list of things to do, nor was it on my vision board. Yet, here I am, still sick, almost two years into treatment for late stage neurological Lyme disease, multiple co-infections, mold and bio-toxin illness.
I’ve struggled for a long time dealing with this illness, as anyone would with something as debilitating as Lyme; however, I have found that my struggle has been more intense for me because I came into this chronic illness world thinking I was invincible because of my health and wellness background. The feeling of “I don’t belong here,” “I won’t be here long,” soon morphed into shame. The shame of being sick in a world where health and wellness was valued. A world where being productive and creative was valued. A world where even though I did everything “right,” I still managed to be taken out by these incredibly debilitating infections.
I’ve gone through the many stages of grief. I tried to bargain for a long time, asking to be given anything but “this.” I’m still grieving the life I left behind and I think for me it is an ongoing process that I will continue to work through. This chronic illness thing comes with a wide range of emotions to continue to work through.
I’ve sat with so much shame around being sick. After all, I learned we are 100 percent responsible for our health and our lives, so I sat in the self blame pool for a long time, trying to figure out what exactly I did wrong to end up “here” so I could figure out how to get out. Well, in all honesty, I got bit by a tick, that carried a bunch of really serious infections, and the building I was living in somehow developed a leak, which caused me to be exposed to a dangerous level of mold. So, no matter how much I meditated beforehand, no matter how great my diet was, no matter how much positive thinking I did, no matter how much detoxing I did, no matter how great my yoga practice was, none of that stuff was going to save me from this illness. Sure, it helps me to cope and deal, but none of those things “fix” it.
So, as I sit and observe where I’m at now, I often wonder if I hadn’t come from a background in health and wellness, would I have felt the shame I do now? No one can really say. Maybe, maybe not. I do know that I tied a lot of my self-worth into being healthy, being able to help others, to work, to provide, to be independent and to be able to take care of myself. This illness takes so much from you. So much.
You can’t just “think yourself better.” You can’t just magically make this all better. No one chooses this. No one. Lyme disease patients deal with enough gaslighting from doctors, healthcare professionals, family and friends, not to mention the incredible obstacles in their way in terms of getting access to proper treatment and then being able to financially afford the treatment. Protocols are incredibly challenging, and this illness is brutal and debilitating enough to be holding onto shame. So, here I am, sick, with a debilitating chronic illness, that I did not choose, I did not ask for, have done so much to try to overcome, and yet, you know what? I am still sick, and I’m still worthy too.
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Thinkstock photo via JZhuk.