I have a chronic illness. Like most chronic illnesses it impedes the quality of my life, but instead of taking the prescribed steroid medications numerous physicians have suggested (which only treat the symptoms and not the actual illness), I’m choosing holistic methods to heal something that Western medicine says is incurable. It’s been a journey, especially with shifting my consumption and unpacking the underlying emotional and mental baggage that is attached to my body’s dis-ease, and still, this part of the journey has frustrated me the most.
When my flare-ups happen and I find myself unable to sleep at night, I question whether I am being punished for some past transgression or whether I am the sacrifice for some ancestral misdeed that occurred long before I was born. I wonder if the doctors are right and that this is something that I simply have to live with for the rest of my life, and if that is the case, then what’s the purpose of doing anything at all to heal myself? I’m doing all the “right” things but I’m still getting sick. “Why me?” is the question that continuously rotated in the back of my mind, “What did I do wrong? What did I do to deserve this?”
I didn’t know that in the midst of my seemingly immedicable pain, I was participating in a victim mentality. Had someone stated that to me in the heat of the moment, I wouldn’t have taken to it kindly. “I am suffering,” would have been my knee-jerk response, “I am a victim!” I equated victimhood to people who blamed others for their own consequences or people who didn’t take accountability for their actions and behaviors. I didn’t consider that a victim complex was also languishing in negativity, assuming that bad things happen no matter what you do, and believing that things can’t be changed. Even before my current illness ruptured my life, victimhood has always been part of my story. I’ve been treating my victim mentality as a personality trait when it’s really a learned behavior—or better yet—learned helplessness. Chronic illness or not I have always seen my life as inherently difficult and that there was little I could do to make it better.
As I dig deeper I see how I developed a sense of powerlessness from times in my early years when I felt I couldn’t control anything. So life seemed to be something that happened to me rather than something I took ownership of. It’s not that I was deserving of any wrong that occurred to me, it’s that I took every wrong personally. I overanalyzed why someone did not respond when I greeted them. I felt targeted when someone provided criticism about my work. I told myself that I should have been a better person than I wouldn’t be experiencing such vast loneliness. I was hypersensitive to everything and everyone…it’s no wonder that I am currently battling my present illness. My body has been keeping score of every fault, thought, and action that I’ve stored away and has been unable to release. It sucks that my body chooses to respond this way, but now that I have a different understanding, I can also approach my healing with a new sense of responsibility and ownership.
Yes, I (still) have a chronic illness, but I am not a victim because of it. Each moment of discomfort is not God's or the universe’s way of administering justice. It isn’t even something I can take personally because it’s not something I was born with, it’s something that’s happened from years of suppressed emotion and trauma. It exists as a form of communication that will direct me to the inner layers of the freedom that I am praying for. I may not be able to cure myself overnight, but it does not mean that I relinquish my responsibility to be well.