Illness is Not a War

We are living in wild times. It’s like we’ve all been drugged and brought inside one person’s psychotic break.

I’ve been in bed for a month trying to restore harmony to my body. I’ve been living with chronic illness for 5 years. I know a little something about living through trying times and thought I’d post about that today.

I’ve said it before but it needs repeating now when the rhetoric of hyper-machismo, of toxic masculinity, of patriarchal capitalism is filling up the news.

Illness is not a war and you’re not stronger if you “win” or weaker if you don’t.

For me, illness has been a call toward love and deeper compassion for myself. It is loving this body, this self, fiercely, tenderly, like a mother loves a child. I am both the mother and the child. Sure I get pissed off and enraged, but that’s not war either. That’s just another feeling and a normal part of the experience.

At best, illness is a journey we didn’t ask to take. It cultivates a certain kind of courage because it pushes us up against the edges of our deepest vulnerabilities and beyond. There are times when we feel so helpless, fragile, and broken, it seems antithetical to call it strength, but that’s what it is. Strength is not the classic hero battling an evil villain. Strength is everyday living. It’s enduring. It’s making it through this moment. And this one. And the next.

Sometimes illness requires us to rally & fight, but even still it is not a battle. That old trope is so fantastical, so infantile and disconnected from real life. It has got to go.

I grew up with narcissists. I know what living with them is like. I recently read that the narcissist’s family operates like a cult and I identified with that comparison immediately. We can all see that playing out now in the family of the United States of America and the family of the world.

I also know that narcissism is not a condition of excess self love, but is its opposite. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is cultivate compassion for all of our selves: our child selves who are frightened, and our adult selves who are doing their best to keep our heads above water through intense and continuous adversity.