health

There’s Comfort in Illness

I think most people are familiar with the idea that change is scary.

Change happens where fear lies. And growth happens where change transpires.

Have you ever thought that maybe you fear getting well because it’s change? Because you are familiar with your illness, you know how it operates, you’ve become used to feeling ill, you’ve made friends somewhere deep inside your body with sickness?

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It dawned on me about a year and a half ago that I actually hold fear around health. It’s a concept I’ve been working through for awhile now. Albeit, an odd one. One you may be afraid to admit. One you may not understand. Why would I (or anyone else) hold fear around getting healthy?

Well, let me explain. I’ve been sick for a very long time and I’ve had symptoms for even longer. I know what it feels like to be sick. It sucks, don’t get me wrong, it’s horrible and I hate it, but I understand how it feels and how it controls my life. Being healthy is something I don’t know and since I don’t know it, it scares me. Who will I be? What will my personality be like? What will I do with my life? How many things will I have to take on because I have energy for it?… Are you starting to see where I’m coming from now? Becoming healthy should be a POSITIVE change, but even positive changes are scary because all change is UNKOWN. It is fear of the unknown that holds us back. The unknown has always been a huge, terrifying thing for me.

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I think of it in the same way as someone who is an abusive relationship. Why don’t they just leave? Because they fear what leaving holds- they’ll be alone, they’ll have to do things by themselves, will someone ever “love” them again? They stay in the relationship because it’s familiar. There is a sense of safety and comfort in the relationship, even if it isn’t healthy. The same holds true for chronic illness, even though I can’t just up and leave it behind.

So, I can’t just leave illness behind that easily. But is it holding be down because… or rather, am I holding on to it in some desperate, subconscious way? Perhaps. How do I let go then? To be honest, I’m not sure. That is what I’m working on. I’m working to embrace the fear, embrace the change. And for me, that doesn’t just start with embracing the fear and change around health, it starts with learning to embrace (or let go of) the fear around change in general.

I hate change. I’ve always hated change. For all the reasons I’ve discussed above. Change is scary. The Unknown is scary. So for me, I have to begin to learn and accept that change happens where fear lies and that it isn’t a bad thing. Change is positive because that is how and where we grow. That is how and where we learn.

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Healing IS brave

I believe that, for me, part of my healing journey, or lack thereof, is a result of a fear of health. A fear of change. As I work on that fear and embrace the change, there will be nothing for illness to hold on to within me and it will slowly begin to let go. I will slowly begin to embrace the change of healing and start to feel better.

Have you ever considered this in your chronic illness journey? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

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3 thoughts on “There’s Comfort in Illness”

  1. I came to a similar realization a while back. It was even much more the case when I was first diagnosed, when I was still seeing Lyme doctors regularly, and later when I saw doctors for Bartonella. The reassuring “drone” of seeing the same doctors over and over again, sitting in the same waiting rooms, waking up and asking myself how I was feeling, thinking about all the symptoms and how they fit together.

    I’m sure it’s much easier to get into that state of “comfort in illness” when you are in the situation I was in, where someone else was handling things like insurance, finding doctors, etc. I was diagnosed halfway through high school, and so for the second half of high school and all of college my mom was the one dealing with doctors and insurance, finding support groups, etc.

    Now I’m in the opposite situation. I’m off living on my own across the country from my parents, and in many ways this is a positive change. I can cook for myself and don’t have to impose my very restricted eating on my family anymore if we want to eat meals together. This leads to a lot less tension. I also feel, for the first time in over 5 years, that I’m actually doing something with my life (after two failed attempts at grad school, I moved back in with parents about 6 years ago and have made little life progress). I also have learned to overcome certain of my health issues.

    The trouble is though, my mom had reached such a breaking point by the time I moved out, now she wants nothing whatsoever to do with any of my health issues. And I never learned the life skills to deal with the medical system on my own, so I’ve gone to a few doctors but nothing ever went anywhere. I feel that without help, I could become totally stuck and not improve, or even regress. I have a good idea of what issues are still holding me back–gut issues are a HUGE one, as shown by my almost miraculous but temporary improvement after a fecal transplant about 2.5 years ago–but little idea who can help me with them. I’ve asked this psychiatrist I’ve just started seeing for referrals, hopefully he can point me somewhere, because the only other professional I see on a regular basis is a therapist, and she hasn’t a clue. It’s a real shame because I live within a 15-minute walk of one of the best medical centers in the world (Duke Hospital).

    Back to that “fear” piece, I think it’s less a fear of being healthy, and more a fear of two other things: having to live up to the demands of a productive, independent life when never sure when you will burn out due to illness, and having to try many treatments that may make you worse in order to find one that helps. I know that I’ve acquired a “don’t dare to breathe” sort of attitude in regards to treatment, like I’m so fearful of losing any progress I’ve gained that I give up when a treatment makes things even temporarily worse, and the healthier I get, the easier it is to trigger this feeling.

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    1. Thank you for sharing so much of your story! I am sorry for all you have been through. I’ve been looking into a fecal transplant, clearly the effects weren’t lasting for you. Any idea why? I’d love to talk more with you about it if possible.

      I agree about the “fear” in terms of living up to demands. It’s all a lot of stress. I hope you are able to find helpful practitioners soon ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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