I’m featuring another great post by Toni Bernhard at Psychology today. She is the author of the superb book How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers
These opening paragraphs are so exactly what it’s like to talk about being seriously ill. There is always a positive way of doing it and a “negative” one.
When someone asks me how I’m doing, I’ve got my glass-half-full and my glass-half-empty answers. My glass-half-full answer is that I’m now able to be up and about for several hours in the morning and then—usually—again in the afternoon.
My glass-half-empty answer is that I can’t make a daylong commitment because, around noon, my body collapses on the bed in flu-like fatigue. If I’m able to fall asleep, then I can be up and about in the afternoon. By evening, I’m too sick to be anywhere but on my bed.
At first glance these two descriptions may seem to conflict with each other, but they don’t. They’re just two different ways to describe my life.
I’d argue the “negative” needn’t be completely avoided. I find that if I only speak from the “glass half-full” perspective people come to think I’m healthier than I am and then in turn expect things of me that I cannot manage which in turn leads to disappointment all around.
Reality is the full spectrum. I think a balanced understanding that it contains both these pictures is great. Noticing that one feels better when one takes the positive view is also helpful and one can move to inhabiting that more often.
The exercises Toni runs through in the post are helpful:
Last month, I discovered a way to change that half-empty glass into one that is half-full….
We can resolve to mindfully observe the painful thoughts and emotions without feeding them with stress-filled commentary. (read more here)
Today in an unrelated moment I wrote some brief thoughts down:
I never stop expecting that I will feel better. It is this expectation that causes my suffering. Society, too, only wants to hear that you are getting better, improving. You are told to expect good things. That you’ll get better. This all takes you away from this very moment in which you are simply unwell. Wishing it were different. It’s not.
So as Toni suggests, if I instead simply observe my illness without commentary and catastrophic narrative, I move towards acceptance in this moment which in turn is healing even if not curative.
Read Toni Bernhard’s post. I find her work very helpful.
Is your glass half-full or half empty?
I don’t care, fill her up!
A collection of links: Information and inspiration for the chronically ill