SICKNESS AND DISABILITY
Living with a chronic illness or disability is never anything less than challenging.
The effects that an illness or disability can have on one’s life, work, finances and relationships, however may at times be even more challenging than the illness itself. It goes without saying that the more serious the condition, the more severe the effects – up to and including the diagnosis of a life-threatening or even terminal condition.
Despite, the inevitability of sickness and ultimately death, most of us choose not to think about these things until circumstances leave us no option. Thanks to medical and diagnostic advances, however, the unhappy news that one is suffering from a life-altering condition comes earlier and earlier. While this gives us more time to prepare for, delay or even avoid altogether some of the worst physical effects, it also leaves us much more time in which to contemplate them – and that can be devastating.
I began my career as a psychotherapist by creating and managing a service specifically designed for people living with, or affected by life-threatening illness. During that time I discovered something very important which has stayed with me now for decades – the idea that anxiety and distress concerning illness, disability and mortality are usually present in inverse proportion to the amount of peace, calm, satisfaction and pleasure that one can derive from the present moment. Effective therapy can change this balance – helping to provide comfort, meaning, and enabling you to make sense of your illness and your world.
At first, the very idea of experiencing any of these things at a time of such palpable unhappiness may sound ridiculous and even offensive. In practice, and in my own experience, it is neither. As one of my very earliest meditation teachers once said to me over forty years ago “Pain is not suffering. Pain is just pain. Wanting the pain to stop is suffering”.