|Photo by Dawn on Flickr.com
Over the years, I have spoken with many people who either have, or once had, arthritis. One of the most striking things about those who are able to completely heal themselves is that they have integrated emotional, mental, and spiritual healing with their attention to their physical bodies. This has reinforced my own knowing that, with an illness as difficult as arthritis, it is generally mandatory to address the body but that alone isn't enough.
The last article explored the importance of dropping the 'old story.' This article explores what it takes to live the new choices.
Walking My Talk
As many of you already know, in 2004 I spent time in the hospital with viral meningitis induced by the West Nile virus. It its own way, this experience was as painful and incapacitating as anything I experienced when I had arthritis. During the following year my recovery was slow and I had periods of relapse: high levels of fatigue associated with cognitive difficulties.
Fully healing from the meningitis demanded that I take everything I learned about healing from arthritis and take it to the next level in my life. I had to walk my talk about healing with more integrity and, it turns out, with more joy than ever before.
The Old Story
As I discussed in the last article, the first step was to identify the emotional and mental patterns that were underlying this cycle of relapses.
In this case, I discovered that I was feeling tired of my life. I was agreeing to do things I didn't enjoy in order to please others, and I was refusing to face fear and anger that was blocking me from living a full and passionate life. I was shutting down who I am and hiding, unable to even think about alternatives. Although I had made life changes and engaged with fear and anger to heal my arthritis, there was more work to do to heal this aliment.
The New Choice
In order to heal and stay healed, I began to pay attention to things that are exciting to me, that wake me up (even if they scared me or were things I wasn't 'supposed' to do). I went rock climbing. I got up on the roof when my shingles needed fixing. I made my meditation CD set. I said yes to a new teaching opportunity. I gave myself permission to play online solitaire without hassling myself about it. I started making my articles more interesting to me. Bottom line, I realized that I have to feel the fear and anger and do it anyway, even if it is scary or I think people will not approve. I have to let my light shine, even risking that it might irritate or offend other people. I have to do things for no other reason than it pleases me.
Sustaining New Choices
Of course, the trick to healing isn't just making the new choice. It's holding that new determination every moment of every day, day in, day out. In other words, making it stick.
When I do relapse into old disempowering mental or emotional patterns, I can feel the fatigue and mental cloudiness begin to set in. As long as I catch that relapse quickly though, it doesn't snowball. (With the arthritis, catching inflammation at very early stages was also the key to breaking out of that cycle.) It helps to catch it early. I feel myself losing ground and I look around at my life and ask 'What would give me pleasure?' It helps to have old standbys (like a good game of solitaire or going to a movie with my sweetheart). And it helps to have new possibilities... I recently purchased a used skateboard and knee pads that are just waiting for the right day. In this way I have been able to train myself step-by-step, moment by moment to hold a stronger space of physical health. In the last year, I have been able to stop the relapses after only feeling off for a few hours and I am consistently feeling really good again.
This article is third in the Who Gets Well series. In the next article I will talk about making and sticking to new choices.