Letting Go of a Cure for Chronic Illness Can Set You Free



I keep going back to this quote by Vivian Greene when it comes to learning how to live with my chronic illness: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” In fact, every morning I drink out of a mug with that quote on it to remind myself of Vivian’s wisdom: IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING TO THE OTHER SIDE. With chronic illness, the important exercise is to get out the rain boots and start stomping in the puddles, to not let the downpour stop you from living.

Going into the second decade of living with a host of conditions–retractable depression, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), hypothyroidism, pituitary tumor, aortic valve regurgitation, Raynaud’s and connective tissue issues—one of the bigger mistakes I keep making is hanging on to the promise that if I do everything “right,” I will be freed from all symptoms for the rest of my life. If I follow the right diet that won’t aggravate my Crohn’s disease or cause brain inflammation that makes me depressed; if I exercise in such a way that doesn’t raise my cortisol and further deplete my adrenals (like running can) or wipe out my good gut bacteria (like swimming in chlorine can); if I practice mindfulness instead of cuss and reduce my stress … if I do all these things, I will be fixed!

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. DM

    Really great post.

    While I think Dr. Gottfried has been pretty helpful to me regarding learning more about hormonal issues, I didn’t appreciate the whole “learned helplessness” thingy. Dealing with depression that was finally, after many years, diagnosed as “treatment-resistant” after over 20 years plus of trying to”pull up my bootstraps”, well, “learned helplessness” is a term I very much dislike.

    For myself, I’ve found Toni Bernhard’s work, as well as David Ricoh’s work, very healing and uplifting. I’ve beaten myself up enough over the years trying to understand my “fall from grace” (former successful business woman, volunteer for just about anything, etc.). To boot, I’ve even had people asked, “What happened to the strong, resilient, tough chick, etc.?” I’ve since divested myself of such friends, although a couple of them found out what it was like to walk along a similar path. I go on to recommend Therese’s site, Toni Bernhard and David Richo. Hey, life happens. I just pray to really embrace it as it is. Doesn’t mean that I give up trying. I’m just learning how to let go more.

    Not to be morbid, but life is short and eventually ends on this earth. Letting go is a great preparation. And as I believe in an “afterlife”, I’m totally hoping for some really nice dancing shoes because I plan to dance my happy dance then. Until then, I pray to do the very best I can each day, even if it’s just a smile or helping hand.


  2. Elizabeth

    Reading this again this afternoon. I already commented on the article itself over on Sanity Break when I first read it so I’m commenting here today:-)

    Man, I have this problem so much! Just when I breathe a sigh of relief and realize that my latest autoimmune flare up is not my fault or my terrible day of anxiety on Friday that lead to throwing up and finally having to go to bed and just read and rest from sheer exhaustion at 7pm was not my fault or that the last half hour was wasted in an OCD checking spreee because of excess stress was not my fault but I could have managed my stress better—-

    Well…. then next thing you know….. I’m blaming myself for everything again. It’s my default hardwiring to blame myself for everything. I work so hard to work on my brain to remind myself of what is my “fault” and what isn’t and then all of a sudden, I forget all the mental work I did to realize that bouts of terrible anxiety that send me to bed early or autoimmune flares that make me exhausted are not my fault. It’s so hard sometimes to remember not to make myself miserable.

    1. Therese Borchard

      Hugs, Elizabeth. I know how hard you work at getting/staying well. So hard to learn self-compassion. But you really deserve kindness. You are a wonderful person! t

  3. Crystal

    “letting go of a cure for Chronic Illness can set you free” Letting go is a Hard One, when you’re struggling to keep yourself together in any way possible. It’s probably the fact that admitting there’s just No Pill to fix this. We somehow have as a society convinced ourselves that a pill can fix everything that’s wrong. For so many Life doesn’t hold that option for us. I’ve lived with chronic illness in one way or another all my life. I’m glad my health hasn’t taken my life, as I would never take my own life. The only thing that has ever stopped me is ..I don’t know that wherever we go..isn’t worse than it is here. The last few years of chronic illness have taken me down & out, when I remain.