Everyone has their own coping mechanisms. Some people I have known use denial. They know as little as possible about their illness, their medications and their prognosis. From what I have observed, this manifests as chronic worry about every tingle and unusual sensation that could mean more illness. I have also seen denial manifest as a manic need to do, do, do even when the body is too tired to continue. There is always another job to do and there is never a moment without noise.
Some people I know use self-pity. They see themselves as victims and rely on other people to “serve” them. Their identity is completely wound around being helpless and sick. This mentality continues even when the body is healed. From what I have observed, this manifests as deep fear of failure and inability to embrace life.
I use positivism as my coping mechanism. I choose to see only the bright side of my illness and concentrate on all the lessons I have learned from being sick. I find a deep spiritual meaning in all that I have suffered and feel closer to God because of it. Sounds good right? If only it were that easy.
It took me nearly 34 years of living with severe illness to finally admit to myself the other side of that story; the side of the story that isn’t so pretty. The truth is that I disconnected from my physical self early in life. I found great comfort in viewing my body as merely a wrapper for my true self, the soul and mind that I call “me”. That separation went beyond a metaphysical philosophy, however. At the darkest corners of myself I hated my body. I hated it to the extent that I wished it pain and suffering. I secretly believed that it deserved every needle poke, every IV and every cut of the scalpel. I hated it so much that I blamed it for my life’s struggles and felt that it had betrayed me by being genetically flawed. I had an entire belief system that was unknown to my conscious mind.
When I discovered this unconscious set of beliefs, I was terrified. This went against all that I thought I was and all that I thought I believed about my illness. I wasn’t nearly as evolved as I like to think I was!
As strange as it sounds, my body and I needed to have a conversation. My body was resentful that it had been violated with all the thousands of medical interventions and I was resentful that my life had been interrupted over and over by a mutated gene. It was an internal conversation between 3 parts of myself; logic, the part I consider “me” and my physical self.
Logic told us that life would be much better if we could learn to work together and be in harmony. “Me” and my physical self didn’t even know how to take that first step to putting the past sufferings behind us and coming together as one.
As I write this my body and I are in the early stages of figuring out how to be a team. We have called a truce and will work to have compassion for each other. I see that if I love my body more I will treat it better. Perhaps I will want to eat well and exercise! At the very least, I will stop seeing it as a separate part of myself that is an enemy and recognize it as another part of what makes me who I am.
My body is an innocent in this scenario, just as I am. I see that now and am working on forgiving a wrong that was never committed. I am working on loving myself from every angle.