Changing your story isn’t easy,especially if it is one that turned your world upside down and inside out. It takes courage, tenacity, desire and will to move from the known to the unknown and trust that you will find something better on the other side.
There is an ‘after’ after a life threatening illness, but from the outside looking in, most don’t understand what it takes. I am speaking as someone who has been inside of a healing process, which included financial troubles. I didn’t understand what it would take either until I went through it.
People on the outside don’t understand what it takes. I had people ask why I didn’t go out and get a job after having open heart surgery. Why did I need to have a fundraiser to help me through this healing process? Why was I so destitute? I had people say you look good so you should be good to go. I see you going for walks so why are you getting a job. Why do you have to ask for help. I have also heard that I created this illness with my thoughts so why can’t I heal by changing my thoughts. Other people I know recovering from life threatening illness have had similar experiences.
This made me think about what is really involved in healing and recovering and creating a new life story.
Healing is a process and many of the steps repeat over and over before they resolve. Recovery by itself takes desire, strength, trust and vision of something better. Those things take mastery of focus when you are in a “reality “ where you don’t feel well.
Here is a list of processes you go through when healing.
1-Life threatening illness
4-Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) Most people cycle in and out of these. Some get stuck in a stage.
5-PTSD (Anxiety, Depression, Fear, terror ) this is common when you have a life threatening illness. You wonder if/when it will happen again
6-Financial Difficulties( Fear, Worry, Increased body pain, Raise in Stess Hormones, Hopelessness, Self-Doubt, Feeling like a failure)
7-The healing Process itself (extreme illness, determining what it is, finding the right treatment, finding the right doctors, feeling better and sometimes setbacks)
8- Acceptance, the stage where you can start thinking about how to create a life that is better.
9-Distancing yourself from current reality, which can include pain and disability and side effects of the illness , so you can even think about something better.
10-Writing a new story for your life
11-Learning how to adjust and navigate the new story
12- Integrate it so it becomes part of your life.
As you can see, there are many things involved in the healing and recovery process. Each step takes time. You might look good on the outside but all of this is going on, on the inside.
I had three heart attacks, every four months over ten months. I didn’t have enough time between heart attacks to physically heal before I had another one. Each one took me back to the beginning of the healing process. By the time I had open heart surgery, I was still healing from three heart attacks which made healing even more difficult.
The healing process is challenged further by the fact that you will probably face financial difficulties as a result. 53% of Americans with health insurance have difficulty paying their medical bills. More than a third of seriously ill use all of their savings to pay for care. 21% had trouble paying for basic necessities. This should not be the consequences of getting sick in America.
So add this immense stress to the healing process and it is even more difficult recovering.
l say this to remind you that if you haven’t gone through a serious illness, please be a compassionate witness to someone who is. Understand they are doing the best they can under the circumstances and that if they had a choice this wouldn’t be happening. Don’t make assumptions. Understand that recovery and getting their life back doesn’t happen over night. Even if they look good on the outside it doesn’t me they feel better. And if they have to ask their community for help, know that is uncomfortable, embarrassing and humiliating.
What a person in recovery needs the most is loving kindness.