What is it like to live with a chronic illness and spend a decade house-bound and often bed-bound? How to Be Sick author Toni Bernhard, who was diagnosed ten years ago with an acute viral infection from which she has never recovered, shared her experience in a touching NPR commentary this morning:
It took me almost six years to find my way back to a life of fulfillment and joy. The journey started when I looked more deeply at the Buddha's first noble truth: Everyone's life has its share of both joy and suffering. Resisting the plain fact of my illness only added mental suffering to the physical suffering.
And so I got out my well-worn Buddhist books. And I remembered something a teacher had said: "If your compassion doesn't include yourself, it is incomplete." This was a turning point for me. I began to direct compassion towards myself. Slowly but surely, I stopped blaming myself for getting sick.
...It has taken several years - and many tears - to learn how to thrive in my new life. I still have rough days when I wish I could do whatever I want. But really, who can do that anyway?