The last few days, in fact in recent weeks, and particularly since we visited Santa Fe which is at 7000 feet, I have been revisiting some old symptoms associated with my ulcerative colitis. It is quite an unpleasant shock I can tell you. There is no blood, which is always pretty scary, but I have had mucus and irregular bowel movement and that feeling in the belly of discomfort and distress. (Sorry for the graphic detail!)
I am not trying to get any sympathy here, this short blog is about something else.
It is about the difference between feeing well and feeling ill.
I spent almost ten long years carrying illness and slow recovery. At times both Amoda (my wife) and I thought I was either going to die, slowly, or else carry sickness around for the rest of my life. It was bad, at times it was utterly demoralizing and I have spent time in despair and depression. I have been to the edge with my body and come back to tell the tale.
And my healing journey worked. It took such a long time, and so much patience and persistence. By the time I did my long water fast I still carried some remnants of scarring and discomfort in my colon, but after the water fast that disappeared. Since then I have had various issues, including a mysterious full body rash that lasted two years, and a borderline hashimotos diagnosis (thyroid malfunction and auto immune problem), but on the whole I have been getting stronger and healthier, to the point where people remark on my vitality and glow.
And every so often something happens and I get dragged back into stuff, and I remember.
I remember how tough it is to be ill. I think it’s real tough when the cause is mysterious and vague, labelled ‘auto immune’ without saying or knowing where it has come from or what to really do with it. Without knowing how to heal and how long it might take, it’s pretty daunting. That’s not to say acute illness is any better. In fact it’s all suffering.
It is tough. And that’s my point here. It is simple. It is very hard to function fully and brightly when there is illness. I am sorry. If it’s you who has something, I am sorry and I wish you great healing, or compassion and empathy, depending on where you are at.
Not everyone heals their body.
But everyone can heal their heart.
I came to the conclusion many years ago, when I was facing ‘the ‘illness for life’ thoughts, that it was more important for me to heal my wounded and broken heart than to be obsessed with healing my body. So I endeavored to do exactly that, and I remember one night I had what now seems like a deeply spiritual experience. Let me tell you.
I went out to the local woods and I lay down, fed up with pain and hardship, and desperate for some relief. I gave myself to the ground and it felt like a fell into a hole (kind of like a grave) and I realized I had reached the end of my tether. I came face to face with my mortality, and thus with God.
I remember saying (Inwardly), ‘God, you can take this body if you wan it, I no longer care and I am sick of holding on to desperation, but please help me heal this wounded heart. Give me some peace and love, and do what you want.’
I was so willing to let go of this body something changed. I actually became aware that life is vast and mysterious, much bigger than the smallness of ‘me and my body’ and how everything that we do, think, feel and experience is held in a love more exquisite and beautiful than anything we can ever imagine. If we could taste that love, what we might call God’s Love, for a moment, we may well not be able to do anything ever again, it may render everything else meaningless.
I have never forgotten this and whenever I slip back into anxiety or fear about illness, or death, or suffering, I remember it. It brings relief and great compassion, both for myself and for others who suffer. I know, through personal experience, that suffering is temporary and is not the truth of who we are.
But it is a challenge. And I feel for those who are ill, those who are at the end, those who are scared and those children who get ill so early in life. I have no explanations but I have an open heart that longs to hold suffering close and help carry it a little when it is too heavy.
Thank you for reading, may you be blessed.