Updated: Jul 7
You heal you,” my inner voice whispered.
I was a fifty-four-year-old investment advisor from Chicago, and I hadn’t felt well in decades. Spring 2009, I was in the countryside in Abadiânia, Brazil, visiting the renowned healing center Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola. I had just heard the widely held, local belief that our actions often contribute to our illnesses. And if God heals us without us doing our part, then the symptoms will likely return. This aha moment changed my life.
I was inspired to take back control of my health. I became the chairman of my wellness board, head coach of my life, and chief scientist of my personal healing solution. Simply put, Jane needed to be accountable for Jane. I was motivated to become responsible for my actions and redirect my thinking to new ideas and ways to get well. It made sense. If I was contributing to my illnesses through my actions, then I could contribute to my healing by changing my behavior. After thirty years of struggling to find answers to my declining health, I began to heal.
I had assumed all along that I was doing my part by spending time and money going from doctor to doctor looking for a solution. But I was just following orders. By giving up control to the process, I paid a heavy toll: I got sicker. I had fallen from a state of rarely being sick to one of seldom feeling well—with no known cure.
It all started in the early 1980s, several years before I moved to Chicago. I was in my mid-twenties and began to get headaches. All day. Every day. It was as if someone turned on a light switch and forgot to turn it off.
At first, the headaches were only mildly distracting. By the time I arrived in the Midwest, I was a frequent visitor to many doctors and even tried a pain management clinic. I willingly became a pincushion for pain medications and a trial participant for new drugs. Nothing worked.
As the years passed, my symptoms bloomed like a magnolia in a greenhouse. To each of my afflictions, doctor after doctor agreed, “I have no idea why you are experiencing these symptoms.” From the initial headaches to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); to massive and rapid weight gain; to chest pains, constant neck pain, and continual flu-like symptoms; to ringing in my ears and still more symptoms, I was told:
“I don’t know why.”
“I can’t help you.”
Reviewing my organized, detailed, and thick notebook of medical tests and reports, a doctor said, “Many people like you, Jane, often don’t make it.” I did not have to ask him what he meant. I knew. It was tough going. I felt like Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. All the great doctors couldn’t put me together again.
My three decades of pain were earth-shattering and changed me as a person. I was stripped of the insignificant and left with the core of who I am—not what others wanted me to be. Pain has a way of burning away the trivial.
Luckily for me (and thanks to my mother’s can-do personality and my father’s bloodline), my inner Scottish warrior emerged fueling me with the determination to survive (not lose) this battle and keep looking up (not down). I took it one day at a time—even ten seconds at a time when necessary.
I used my limited energy to stay focused on what I did want in my life. I wanted to have close relationships again. I wanted to go out with my friends. I wanted to stay up past 6:00 p.m. and not collapse into bed from pain and fatigue. I wanted to date again. To stop spending money on medical bills. To be well. To enjoy my passions. To enjoy life. To belly laugh. To be glad to be alive. I was done with pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual. I was prepared to give my all just to be normal again.
I did give it my all, and slowly I recovered. And you know what? As challenging, painful, and lonely as those years were, I would welcome the same experience just to get to where I am today. Prayer to God: please, though, give me several lifetimes of R & R first.
An excerpt from the introduction to You Heal You: Thriving After Illness, Pain, and Loss. Learn more at youinspireyou.net.