Thinking Out of the Box

HEALTHY LIVING WITH CHRONIC DISEASE AND PAIN
THE FUNDAMENTALS, PART 2

Thinking out of the Box

“We are reluctant to live outside tribal rules because we are afraid of getting kicked out of the tribe.” – Caroline Myss

We’ve all had this experience at least once. Sitting, listening to a favorite band, and really wanting to get up and dance. Looking around, and everyone else is seated. “Should I get up alone? Will I embarrass myself?” you wonder. Do you get up or stay seated?

Human beings are social creatures. From a very young age we attach strongly to our group. Over time our group widens, from our immediate family, to our friends and schoolmates, into an ever-expanding web of influence. We get a lot from our social connections- support, a sense of belonging, self- esteem, and purpose to name a few. Being valued in our group feels really good, and provides a huge incentive not to rock the boat.

Eventually though, the day will come when rocking the boat becomes necessary. You may not agree with a school rule, or you may recognize that, in a family of beef eating carnivores, your body really needs to be vegetarian. It is scary to speak up on behalf of yourself, especially when you risk isolating yourself from the people around you. But, if you are serious about healing, it is essential. This is especially true when you live with chronic disease and chronic pain.

In my own life I’ve had to buck to norm in medical treatment to take a huge number and amount of medications. I respect medical science for its protocols and scientific inquiry, however, as someone who lives with a chronic disease I have to think out of the box. My incentives are different from the scientific community who works to help me. It’s not my livelihood or my career trajectory at stake, but my life. And because I know my body, I know that if I take too many medications, I will end up sicker, not more healthy. What is healthy for me is a judicious use of medication, along with a careful balance of exercise, rest, diet, and herbs.

This hasn’t made me popular with some of the doctors that I’ve seen over the years, but I’m the one who has to live in my body 24/7/365. It is my job to be my own advocate and I take this job seriously, because I know that if I don’t stand up for myself, no one else will.

All of us recognize when we aren’t being true to ourselves. We feel it somewhere; an uncomfortable sensation, a sense of dread, depression, or anger are good signs that something is out of balance. The key is to go beyond feeling the discomfort, and having the courage to do something about it. It isn’t easy, but you are worth it. Healthy living with chronic disease and pain requires you to have the courage to be true to yourself.

Today, take some time to think about your life, and uncover any ways that you are compromising yourself so that you don’t rock the boat. Then, brainstorm how you can gracefully exit the situation and move into a healthier way of life.

Remember, instead of being an outcast, you can be a quiet leader, one who leads by example. It’s always the first person in the room who has the courage to speak up and ask a question that paves the way for others to follow suit. Or the first one to get up and dance.

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