Self-Compassion for Autoimmune Disease

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The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is usually the most difficult period in one’s life.” — HH Dalai Lama

I don’t have an autoimmune disease. And I don’t think it matters because what I do know is that struggle is struggle. Pain is pain. It is not discriminatory to the circumstances of our life. And really no matter what your issue is, or who is in it, we all actively work to remove pain from our life. Just like when someone swerves into your lane while driving on the highway and you involuntary swerve away from it, so is the human response to pain. So I make no distinction how the pain arrived, it just is. I have my own story of how I happened upon this path. You can read my story here.

About 20 years ago when I started on a path of least resistance, I was suffering horribly. I was having my first existential crisis while in grad school. It was my first dip into what many call the Dark Night Of The Soul. It was the first real example in my life that showed me that I was not steering the ship I called my Life. I was spontaneously going out of my body and had no idea why it started, how to stop it, manage it or make sense of it. My vision would suddenly change along with dizziness and disorientation which of course made me feel incredibly anxious. Going in and out of my body made it hard to do most things like drive a car or have conversations. It felt terrifying until I understood what was happening. Now, I realize it was a big fat one way ticket that lead me to where I am today.  Desperate to find a book or someone to guide me through such unknown territory, I serendipitously heard on the local radio of a healer who helped terminally ill people and called her. (my story may sound similar to yours..having a crisis, trying to find the right practitioner to understand and help you)  She patiently listened as I told her I was in desperate need of help and then she politely laughed. “Oh honey, you are not a serious enough case for me, but I have someone else I can send you to.” Her name was Lynn. She helped those who were in hospitals near death to cross over and was also an energy balancer. The first time I went to see her, (at the tender age of 21) she helped me understand what was happening and gave me exercises to help me stop leaving my body so spontaneously. Her guidance within the unknown place I had found myself in was immeasurable.

One day I asked her why some in the world seem to struggle so much, and others seem to have such an easy time. With a smile on her face, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Some people are here on this planet just for rest and relaxation. You are not one of them.” Bummer! Because if you give me a choice between sitting at a pool or digging a ditch, I will choose the pool every single time. And if you ask me if I like the horrible ache of suffering, I will never say yes. But, If you wonder how I manage conflict or hurt or the pain in my life, I will tell you that now I almost run toward it because it is the fastest way through it. I am up for any way to get back to the pool the fastest!  And when I run toward it, I am the person who is most likely out of breath, clunky and ill-dressed. And I probably left some door in my house unlocked when I ran toward my suffering. Or left dishes in the sink. Or leftovers in the fridge too long. And I went anyway, and loved myself for having the courage to do it at all. It is the effort alone of looking at suffering in a new way that unlocks the gifts it holds.

That is self-compassion.

Going towards the very things that causing the most amount of pain, and not judging yourself while doing it. That is self compassion. Being open to the willingness to work with your disease instead of against it. That is self compassion.  Thanking both those in your life who are the very cruelest and kindness with the same amount of gratitude, because both may unlock growth for you in the same capacity. That is self compassion. Deciding you are going to accept your illness as a gift and actively search for the blessings from it. That is self compassion. Forgiving those who have hurt you the very most because you and your health will benefit the most from that act. That is self compassion.

So why go towards the flames of your bonfire? I believe it is the surest way to put them out. Moving toward pain, instead of away from it is an act of trusting yourself. An act of trusting your life. Waking up and embracing your MS or Lupus means that you have to rearrange how you label Good and Bad in your life. That is self compassion. That is transformation. Embracing your illness means you move beyond labels and you move into love. And when that kind of appreciation for your life, disease and circumstances happens, you shift your orientation of how life meets you. In an instant.

In an instant. And that is the place of radical healing.

My goal for doing this work is to help you increase your capacity for loving and holding difficult things. The human experience will always contain difficulty. So why even try to dodge it. My goal is to support you while your heart grows to encompass all of your experiences both the hard and easy ones with the same loving acceptance. So that eventually you see everything in your life as a special experience made for your growth. That is why I do what I do. The more I do it for myself, the more it will spill over into the world. The more you do it for yourself, the more it will spill over into the world. Every moment you choose loving, it changes the world. Truly this is a process of getting PRESENT. Not a process of FIXING. There is nothing to fix because you are not off the path. That is where the healing comes from; getting present to you and the loving inside. These are the skills I bring forward with my clients through The Loving Diet work. A comprehensive program that uses love to uncover the wisdom of what your disease is trying to bring forward. Going to a place inside yourself in a loving way that brings you into cooperation with your illness. I have found that very powerful medicine. You may not be able to shift your life and the circumstances, so why not shift your relationship to your circumstances? The Loving Diet is a program I created to do this for those with chronic illness.

So for 5 minutes, right now, sit where you are and tell your autoimmune disease you are open to the idea that it might have a message of love. You may not know how, or when or why it will be blessing your life, but entertain the idea that it will. Trust the timing will be perfect. Focus on your breath going in and out and don’t try to fight how much you dislike your disease. It is ok to dislike it. It is ok to want it to be gone. But at the SAME time, just let the idea that perhaps it could improve your life be inside you for a moment. And breathe that in a few times. Notice how that makes you feel.  I think doing this exercise regularly, and just allowing yourself to entertain the thought that disease could be part of the many blessings in your life can shift your health. Not worrying about the outcome, but just allowing some relief in this moment and lessening how heavily your autoimmunity is weighing itself on you. After all, breathing itself is somewhat of a miracle, right? So let what ails you be your miracle. You and every single cell in your body is a miracle. You, here on this planet gracing all of us with your beautiful presence, that is a miracle. Every moment of our lives contain within it magic that is unfolding for our benefit. Love is all around us, in us. We just have to choose it.

39 Comments

  1. Audrey

    Jessica –
    I sit here with a headache that has eased some from yesterday after a flare-up.

    Your post has inspired me further to work more toward self-compassion and acceptance.

    I started AIP 3 days ago, deciding on my 4th day (today) to eat eggs and consult a Naturopathic Dr. with regarding further testing ASAP. I wasn’t sure test results would be accurate if I cut eggs out. That is the only thing that I consumed on the AIP diet. I feel strongly that I will end up on AIP.

    Thank you for this post. I feel for the most part I am driving into the storm in order to conquer it.

    I love the part about setting aside 5 minutes to breath. I am going to find a quiet space right now to do just.that.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Hi Audrey! Yes, you need to be eating eggs to get an accurate test result for it. But if you were only off of them for 3 days you should be fine.
      You can totally do this Audrey. I love your analogy of driving into the storm. I believe illness can help us usher more loving for ourselves, bringing us closer to wholeness, not farther way from it. Tell me how it goes!! xo-jessica

      Reply
  2. Diana Goad

    Today has been a bad day among the many of the last 15 years. But, today has just gotten better! I have found you and your site with very possibly the help I have always needed. I am going to try.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Hi Diana!
      I am so happy to read this! I know you can do this. Let me know how it goes. xo-jessica

      Reply
  3. Misty

    Thank you,,,,, my battered soul needed that… I’ve been terribly ill with a flare for several months and have be so down….Thank you, Blessings
    Misty

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Misty…sending you a big hug. xo-jessica

      Reply
  4. lori

    My story sounds very similar to yours. I have had trouble with blurry vision and dizziness that I can no longer work. I have so many other horrible symptoms. I have been diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and sjogren’s. I am in a flare and sometimes hate my life. Thanks for writing this. I needed it

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Hi Lori! I am so sorry. And I know it will get better. xo-jessica

      Reply
  5. Ali

    I find that being sick with a chronic illness ( I have numerous autoimmune diseases) makes you a more empathetic to others and their pain, no matter where it comes from. I wouldn’t give this up for the world!
    More recently, I have given myself permission to slow down my life, which means I can be really “present” with my baby daughter and make sure I can stay as healthy as possible for her sake. My idea of what success is has changed. A fantastic job and more higher education study isn’t important. I have the best job ever being the best mum and woman I can be. I am happier than ever with my life, sickness and all!

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Ali! This is so beautiful to read and so inspiring. I know your wonderful outlook must be an inspiration for so many others you know. Thank you so very much for sharing this. xo-jessica

      Reply
  6. George

    I just want to say that I very rarely comment on blogs. This post stopped me in my tracks.

    I have been very good about turning every negative moment in my life into something positive. I even took pride in the fact that I had such an ability. Little did I know, I would meet my match. When I was unable to work because of a serious MS attack, my world turned. It’s been very dark since then, and I haven’t experienced a tear of joy in a long while. I thank you so much for this post. I thank you so much for this.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      George, oh boy, what a wonderful way to start my day today; reading this comment of yours. It is my honor to meet my match too. Thank you for saying so, and having the courage to keep examining what life is giving you. The more we do this collectively, the more the world and us, heal. Thank you so very much. xo-jessica

      Reply
  7. Shawn Bowen

    Thank you, I work in a Corporate environment that rewards over achievements. I am no longer a good match for this environment but due to the need for comprehensive healthcare I continue to stick it out. This is my second day at home due to DM/ Fibro. I truly needed to hear that I am strong and worthy.

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Shawn..you are and I am glad you wrote. Hang in there! sending a hug. xo-jessica

      Reply
  8. Liz Haggitt

    All of this is so inspiring Jessica – everything you have mentioned and described were my thoughts along this autoimmune journey – so easy to be negative, recluse, dark, reckless, false, tired and losing yourself into pathetic sad worthlessness. Its energy wasting on the mind body and gut why put extra pressure on oneself. Your words and compassion and breathing technique just uplifted me tonite in bounds – so overjoyed that I found you.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge

    Reply
    • Jessica

      Liz! I am so glad to read this, and so glad the words brought a bit of light to you day. Much love to you xx-jessica

      Reply
  9. Brittani

    “The celiac mom who recognized the disease in her child” – this is me. ♡ we’re working to get my 5 year old feeling better. This is a fantastic perspective, thank you.

    Reply

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