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Rising Strong After Illness Knocks You Down

I’ve borrowed the title of Brené Brown’s book for this blog because it resonates to the core of my being. Rising strong is not so much about physical power but about a strength that resides inside our heart. Many of us see ourselves as warriors, survivors, lion-hearted and courageous while others feel defeated, guilty, weak and desperately overwhelmed. And it’s fair to say we often feel all of the above in the span of just one day.

Chronic illness can knock you down so hard, so often and for so long, that you may think you’ll never be able to get back up again… you may not want to get back up.

Rising strong is what I experienced the day I finally stood up to my Dragon (as I call the illness that took over my life). I said: “Enough!” I was done feeling like a victim and began to map out strategies to manage my life differently. While I’d love to say I became the Dragon Whisperer, this beastie does not cooperate…

I’ve become a Dragon Tamer. Now, this way of looking at our situation is quite different from trying to fight the illness. It involves a journey that leads to a degree of acceptance. Yes, acceptance! I know it’s difficult to imagine accepting something that brings so much misery in our life, but we cannot manage what we do not acknowledge and accept. We need to clearly see what we are facing in order to climb out of the pit of despair.

Rising strong requires determination and focus. In my favorite movie, “Gone With The Wind,” after struggling with the horrors of war, Scarlett comes home to a devastated Tara. She realizes that almost everything is gone. She has lost her mother, her father’s mental state has declined, there’s no money and no food. Except for the actual house she used to live in, almost nothing is left of the life she once knew. Starving, exhausted and wearing what’s left of her last dress, Scarlett goes out into the destroyed garden, tries to eat some inedible vegetation and falls to the ground, sobbing. The heroine is crushed to the marrow. Just when you think she’s beaten, she does something wonderful. She rises. Strong. Fist in the air, she makes the famous solemn oath that she’ll never go hungry again. She goes on to do what needs to be done. This heroin has determination and focus. She makes a plan and carries it out. She’s no angel, but you have to admit that she is an inspiring example of what it is to rise strong.

But how can we find the strength to get up when we’ve been down for years? I have found that when I’m at my most vulnerable, I occasionally tend to “pray,” that is to say that I beg for help. I call out to the Creator and plead for help. The problem with that is that begging and praying are not the same at all. I believe that the universe supports us when we ask for help with an attitude of openness. It is when we are receptive to all aspects of our life that help can reach us and fill our heart with the strength to rise strong, and the fearlessness needed to tame that dragon.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,


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Getty Image by CasPhotography