Meditation and Going Beyond Mindfulness - A Secular Perspective
The New Normal: Moving Beyond Illness
Not long ago, my thoughts and emotions revolved around feeling sick. It was the lens through which I viewed the world. In 1997, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes muscle and joint pain as well as severe fatigue and memory issues; a car accident in 2006 rocketed my symptoms from moderate to severe. My husband saw me go from healthy and athletic to being miserable almost overnight.
Fibromyalgia pain doesn't creep up; it lands on you with all its might. And if the pain doesn't sideline you, the fatigue zaps you, leaving you unable to function or focus on what you were doing the moment before it hit. Everyday activities like grocery shopping or taking my dogs for a walk became excruciating undertakings. More than once I've walked out of a store abandoning a half-full cart of groceries. I spent my days in fear of doing anything that would bring on my symptoms.
In 2007, I missed my family's annual Christmas Eve gathering. That's when I knew something had to change. I hated living this way. My true essence is not that of a sick person; my essence is who I was before my diagnosis: the woman who could strap on a backpack and go with her husband into the mountains for the weekend; the woman who organized the games at family parties; the woman who always said yes to invitations from friends; the woman who was eager to take on the next life experience. I could feel that woman inside me longing to reconnect.
So I changed the only thing I had any control over: me. I began by focusing on the simple belief that my life had meaning beyond my illness. Writing has always been a powerful outlet for me, so in October of 2008 I began my blog, FibroHaven.com. It became a safe space to express my emotions and fears, and by doing that, they began to lose their power. Gradually, I shifted my focus away from what wasnotpossible to whatispossible. I was so encouraged by the connections I made on FibroHaven that I started a local support group a month later.
Determined to tap into my body's natural ability to heal, I slowly tried things that I hoped would quiet my illness. I cut gluten and processed foods from my diet, and started eating more veggies and lean meat. I tried senior classes of extra-gentle yoga and was overjoyed at the way my body responded. I went from going once or twice a month to practicing a few times a week. Now I'm a certified yoga instructor, and I teach weekly classes.
Through all of my efforts, changes and connections to new friends over the past few years, a new me has emerged. I'm feeling better, and when my symptoms flare up, it now lasts just a few days or hours, instead of weeks. I'm not symptom-free, and I likely never will be. But what I am is hopeful, happy and whole.
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