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I'm Not Being 'Negative' by Refusing Suggestions About How to 'Cure' My Illness

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I was recently reading Erika Hansen’s article “Please Stop Telling Me Your Natural Supplement Will ‘Cure’ My Illness” and I had to chuckle because I had literally just opened my computer to write nearly the same thing. It’s an experience I think is universal to those of us who struggle with a chronic condition.

I do really appreciate those people who give me advice as I know it comes from a good place – they are reaching out to show me they care. They are the kind of people who want to fix things and I get it – I’m a bit of a fixer myself. They want to find a cure for me, they want to “treat the core illness” rather than the symptoms. And so they hand out suggestions – doctors, therapists, chiropractors, alternative therapies, supplements. I used to listen carefully, adding it to my mental research bank until my brain swirled and ached. But now, I’m starting to say, “No. That won’t work for me.”

When I say I won’t try an approach or that what they are suggesting won’t work, I sound like I’m being negative – that I’ve given up and the depression is causing me to be obstinate. But what they need to understand is it’s quite the opposite. I have reached a place of acceptance and that is very different.

Accepting that I’m ill and there is no miracle cure waiting for me frees me up to make the choices I need to care for myself. I’ve lived with this disease for the past 20 years, mostly by pushing and crashing. Reaching this point of severity has the benefit that, now that it’s been named and labelled, I feel able to do what is needed to keep myself as healthy as possible for the next 20 years. When I talk about considering a gluten-free diet, cutting out sugar, reducing coffee and adding supplements, I’m not looking to fix my disease, I’m looking to improve my symptoms.  This is very different. I’m not looking for my pain or for my headaches to disappear. I’m looking for ways to reduce them to a more manageable level and to potentially increase my energy. I’m choosing very carefully, after much reading and thought, what I can manage emotionally and what my body can handle physically.

What people don’t understand is there is always another thing you can try, more money you can spend, more hope you can dash and more energy you can lose chasing down that golden thing that just might possibly work. It’s an exhausting, time-consuming process. It costs a lot of money. And for the most part, for me, it’s been unsuccessful. Asking me “But shouldn’t you at least try? What if it works?” is painful and just adds to the pressure and guilt that seem to be endemic of this illness.

Acceptance is not giving in and it’s not easy. It’s taken me two years of mental gymnastics to get here – and I still find myself occasionally veering back into the “search for the cure” phase. But acceptance is making me stronger. It’s showing me the way to live within my disease. It’s teaching me to slow down, figure out what’s really important and concentrate on the goodness in life.

So please don’t offer me solutions. And if you do, don’t judge me when I say, “No, that won’t work for me.”

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Photo via m-imagephotography on Getty Images

Originally published: December 7, 2017
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