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The Book That Changed My Life With Chronic Illness

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After I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis, I struggled to accept the fact I really had a disease that was causing the severe chronic pain I’ve been enduring for the previous year and took so much away from me.

I mourned all the lost time I spent just trying to survive day to day, not being able to eat or walk my dog on beautiful sunny days, losing my job and pausing my marketing career I worked my ass off for, not being able to see my family or friends as much as I wanted, struggling with the anxiety gained from going undiagnosed, along with being dismissed by doctors and so much more.

The life I once had planned out for me was gone — just like that.

It was like someone flipped a switch in my body in July 2018 and things have never been the same since. This is the reality of chronic illness – it can shake you to your very core, make you question every little thing, and suddenly you’re left wondering how the hell you’re supposed to go on living this life you never anticipated.

Where do you even start with something like that?

For me, it started with seeing an online therapist through my health insurance provider. Online therapy was a godsend because I was able to keep my appointments even during my painful flare-ups since I didn’t need to drive or get a ride anywhere. If you deal with flare-ups, you know how hard those days can be mentally on top of the physical agony you feel. Those sessions, though they were full of tears, were some of the best sessions I had because it helped me learn how to cope with my emotions and pain on those bad days.

During this time, I remembered receiving a reading list from a local young professional group in my area that I used to be active in before all this. I saved the list due to it being more geared toward mindfulness, meditation and related themes. I decided to look at the list again and investigated one of their top book recommendations.

The Book That Changed My Perspective

The book was called “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness,” written by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book opened my eyes to a much bigger picture of life, not just the one I was going to have with endometriosis and anxiety.

When I first got this book in the mail, it reminded me of a college textbook. It’s thick, not the usual entertainment read of fiction I indulge in; it was set to be more educational. It can be intimidating, but once I jumped in, I knew I made the right choice immediately.

It was insightful, fascinating and reinforced a lot of techniques I was already exploring at the time. The book backed it all up with concrete evidence from people who were involved with a structured stress clinic. The reasons why people were at the clinic varied from chronic pain to stress and plenty of things in between. This book reinforces the power of mindfulness, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. I know it seems hard to believe such simple concepts can bring life-changing results, but it’s one of those things — don’t knock it until you try it.

By the time I read this book, I was already meditating daily and experienced positive changes from my practice. Still, the book really strengthened my belief in how critical mediation can be in someone’s life regardless of their health circumstances.

My favorite part of this book was that it provides an outline for you to run and mimic your own stress clinic with their proven techniques. I’m sure not everyone who reads this book does this, but I did because I wanted to try anything and everything to be more accepting of my disease and find ways to live with it, whether I was in a flare-up or not.

I grabbed my wall calendar and set up my eight weeks, following their guidance on what days to do yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, journaling and more. I followed that guide every day for weeks. By the end, I noticed a difference — I felt more at ease, not just with my illness, but with my life in general. It was a welcomed feeling after struggling for so long.

I know a lot of people like to set new goals when the new year hits, so if you find yourself struggling to find peace from high levels of stress, chronic illness(es), or never-ending chronic pain, this book may be worth exploring.

My Favorite Takeaway From This Book That I Still Reflect on Today

The last thing I want to mention is something that has always stayed with me after reading this book.

It’s mentioned briefly in a passage, “There is so much more right with your body than there is wrong with it,” and that really hit home with me. It is so easy to scrutinize everything your body cannot do or is doing wrong instead of focusing on all the things it continues to do right for you, breath after breath.

That line really opened my eyes to the truth — things could always be or get worse, so much worse.

We tend to forget that because we get so blindsided by the things impacting our lives negatively and in the moment. Since other parts of our bodies function correctly, we may assume there is no reason for us to pay any attention to them, not even to recognize and be grateful toward them for doing their primary purpose. That is something I try to do differently now.

This quote has become one of my favorite mantras for my bad days. It serves as a subtle reminder that while my body is not what it used to be and may never be again, I still have so much that is right with my body. That is extremely comforting for me on my bad days.

If anyone has read this book, I would love to know your thoughts on it, if you learned anything new or have managed to apply any of its practices to your self-care routine. If you have never heard of this book, I highly encourage you to read it if you want to find more ways to be at peace with yourself and your body.

It is such an incredible read, and I believe you will find something of value to take from it and apply it toward your own health journey.

This story originally appeared on Understanding Endo.

Originally published: January 20, 2020
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