In my humanness, I experience suffering. I am not yet enlightened enough to say it does not exist for me. I can almost measure suffering as the distance between where I am and where I want to be. But I do clearly see my suffering almost always occurs from being attached to things like outcomes. So when suffering comes, I work on my expectations of myself and coming into cooperation with my life instead of judging too harshly my suffering or how I am handling it. And I know that there is quite a bit of suffering that comes with Autoimmune Disease. There are natural expectations with autoimmune disease. Namely, being healed. You most likely have a picture in your mind right now about how your health should look. That vision most likely was a motivator to going on AIP to begin with. And perhaps you embarked on the AIP journey and have achieved that vision and are as healthy as you hoped. But perhaps some of you are not. And you feel disappointed about how your health journey is not going ‘as planned’. And you are frustrated and angry. And you feel an ache inside of you about this. Sound familiar? That is suffering. I personally feel like nothing brings me to my knees quicker than suffering. And perhaps it is not suffering that is the enemy, but our knee-jerk reaction to run away from suffering that is more the issue. We live in a society that not only condones squashing out suffering, but whole-heartedly promotes it. Medications, drinking, addictions, eating..all have the power to create the illusion of not suffering. But, I am going to propose that we not to push suffering away. Suffering can be a powerful transformer. If we allow it to.
I describe suffering as pain of some kind. Pain in your body. Pain in your heart. Pain in your life. The spiritual side of suffering is somehow not not accepting what is happening. An attachment to something, someone or an expected outcome. But suffering also is a normal response from change, sadness or loss.
Could there be an upside to suffering? Perhaps. As much as it seems you are in quicksand, it also has the ability to transform our hearts quite quickly. Suffering causes us to take pause and consider our path. Suffering asks us to become more compassionate to ourselves. Suffering asks us to love ourselves. Think about that for a minute. The entire nature of suffering could have an upside: Transformation. Part of what makes suffering (pain in your body, horrible news, heartbreak) so painful is that our immediate response to suffering is to push it away. And I wonder if you considered pulling suffering closer, it could possibly teach us something and also help us move through it quicker. So I say to you if you are down right now (and I say as much to myself as you) that suffering is hard. Just really, really hard. And if your reading this and it is resonating with you because you are hurting in some way, I hear you. And, you are not alone. And as painful as it may seem to pull it closer, that is the exact thing I suggest. Once we bring that pain closer to us, it tends to loosen its grip. Being with your suffering can actually make it less potent.
I always know my suffering is extra horrible when I see people out in the world and they look happy and carefree and I feel a mixture of envy and sadness. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad they are not suffering. I just wish myself to be not suffering too. It seems that the world stops when I feel the ache of suffering. I stop. And any thought that I had of knowing how things ought to be cease to exist. All I am doing is surviving when I am suffering. Or asking the question “Why?” a whole lot. Nothing adds up when I am suffering. Suffering is the worst sort of pain I know. Yet oddly, all us humans suffer. And what we do with suffering can be a tool for healing.
There is almost no better teacher on the planet than suffering. I consider suffering a incredible motivator. It can motivate us to change our body, change our mind and grow our hearts. “Oh, I don’t like this job, I am going to find another” “This relationship I am in is not serving me, I am going to end it” “This outlook on life is not a very loving one, I will change how I do things” “I never wake up and feel good. I think I will try to change that”. Most of us can agree that we would rather be any place than suffering. We do almost anything as humans to get out of suffering. Just look at how we medicate ourselves in various way when we suffer. And I get it. I really get why that seems like an option. Pain killers and medications are necessary to manage physical pain in many cases. And when I get the wind knocked out of me by some event, and I suffer horribly, I have a simultaneous deep appreciation for when I am not suffering and compassion for all those who are attempting to navigate the harsh cold waters along with me. But here is the deal. Suffering can be a very powerful tool to teach us to be right in the middle of life which I call mindfulness or the eternal Now.
I want to pass along some tools I use when I am feeling hopeless. I hope you find a bit of use from them. And know that if I could hold your hand, I would.
1. Give yourself 30 minutes and go into the pain. Really, the center of our suffering is a bit like the eye of the hurricane. If you take a moment to go right into the most painful part, relief may come. Breath it in. Breath in that very, very hard piece you are trying to run away from. Pull it close to you and relax your body if you can. Just keep breathing into it again and again. Let whatever comes up be there with you. Just focus on your breathing. See if you can manage this for 15-20 minutes increments.
2. Go to bed 2 hours earlier than normal. I go to bed around 8:30 or 9pm when I am in pain. It helps to regulate cortisol. Plus the body needs a tremendous amount of metabolic energy to manage pain of any kind. So while you are in the thick of it, sleep often. And here is the thing. Pain in the heart can cause pain in the body. Pain in the body can cause pain in the heart. It isn’t important how or why you got to suffering.
3. Ignatia Amara: Some call this the Homepathic Prozac. Awesome. Hand it over. This remedy is wonderful for grief, anxiety, insomnia, headaches and hopelessness. It is the most classic grief remedy in homeopathic. Think sorrow. Think crying. Think sadness from some kind of big upheaval. Hallmarks also include sighing a lot, crying while alone, emotionally sensitive. You will need a homeopath to help you with the dose, but 200c. dose twice per day may be a good starting point.
4. Let yourself be sad. Give permission. Say it out loud. “I give myself permission to be sad” or “I am doing a great job letting myself be sad today.” This is a very important piece of suffering. When you are upset about your circumstances, it can make those around you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let that deter you. The more that you walk toward what ails you, the more quickly you will come out the other side.
5. Keep a journal. Write it down. Write a letter to your disease telling it how you really feel about it. Let it rip. Then burn the letter.
6. Change the scenery. It will help you from stagnating. Even if it is a short trip to a favorite store. Don’t over do it; too much could make you more tired. But little breaths of fresh air help.
7. Eat enough starchy carbohydrates. This will help manage cortisol!
8. Be sure you are digesting your meals. Stress is a big contributor to low HCL production in the stomach. So consider talking to your health care practitioner to find a supplement that may assist with digestion if you need one.
9. Trust your life. There is something pushing your life forward that you may not be aware of yet. And if you don’t trust it, and you hate everything, be ok with that too. Being human is very, very, very hard some days. I jokingly text my girlfriends “it was an especially hard day to be human today”….and we have a good laugh. But you can trust life. This I know.
10. Trust your tenderness. It will get you more in your life than less. This is a hard one for me personally. I become more tender by the day doing this kind of work. And loving your life and your struggles may make you more tender as well. I sometimes think I speak a language only a few understand in the physical realm. It can be a hard buy-in to go the tender route. Do it anyway and do not hesitate. I would rather get broken a thousand times than stay safe in my protective cocoon. And if I have to go out in the world teary-eyed from it all, then I will. Being vulnerable to life is the ticket to great love of ourselves and our life. It may level the playing field, but know the players you surround yourself with are the bravest of the bunch. The ones who choose to go big. Those are the ones I want to invest in.
We can say suffering is due to attachment. It is. We can say our suffering is so potent because we are attached, yes. But it is natural to suffer when we get the diagnosis or news of some sort we don’t want to. It is deep work to find acceptance of disease. It is profound work to become friendly and loving toward what ails us. I do believe it can be done. I do believe there is a vast resource at our fingertips in the midst of suffering. Remember when you think you are being knocked off course, you are not. When you invest in trusting your circumstances, you pull towards you resources that you may not know of yet. Like angels in waiting…xo