To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best
day and night to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight…
In the first year of my illness, one of my all-time favorite healers, Dr. Heidi Fleiss-Lawrence of the Jerusalem Family Wellness Center, asked me something along the lines of, “Are you fully expressing your will in your life and your relationships?” A couple of years later, a particularly insightful and opinionated homeopath put it more bluntly: “Are you living a life that you want to show up for?”
What Does Your Body Need In Order To Heal?
Deeply connected caregivers know that your emotional well-being is key to your physical well-being; that when significant elements of your life are preventing you from experiencing joy or being your authentic self, your health suffers. In Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book, Mind Over Medicine, she talks about noticing a correlation in many of her patients between being meaningfully happy and being healthy.
At first, when she began asking her patients the question, “What does your body need in order to heal?” the responses shocked her. Whereas some people responded with medical answers like needing the right antibiotic or wanting to get their hormones in balance, many more replied with answers like, “I have to quit my job;” “It’s time to finally come out of the closet to my parents;” “I must divorce my spouse;” “I have to finish my novel;” or “I need to forgive myself.”
Dr. Rankin tells the story of Marla, who was in an abusive marriage, had an unpleasant job, and had numerous chronic autoimmune conditions. Marla answered the question with, “I need to move to Santa Fe.” When Dr. Rankin asked her why, Marla said, “I have a vacation home in Santa Fe, and whenever I go there, all of my symptoms disappear.”
Sure enough, a year later, Dr. Rankin heard from Marla. She had moved to Santa Fe, divorced her husband, and started a new career and a new life. Her symptoms were gone. She was healthy and happy.
Maybe there was a physical explanation for Marla’s healing. Maybe there was an allergen in her previous home that was absent in Santa Fe. Who knows? But the thing is, it wasn’t just Marla. Dr. Rankin “witnessed similar transformations in dozens of patients” who switched jobs, ended unhealthy relationships, or made other significant changes and achieved vastly improved health as a result.
By taking some major steps, these individuals reduced stress, gave themselves more of those health-inducing hormones that joy brings, created lives they really wanted to be living, and freed their bodies up to heal in the process.
For Today: Ask yourself the question, “What do I need in order to heal?” Give yourself a chunk of time to think or journal about it. You might be surprised at the answers.
Liza’s Story: Choosing Joy
Joy does not simply happen to us.
We have to choose joy and
keep choosing it every day.
—Henri J.M. Nouwen
Knowing when to expend energy to reach for joy and when to cut back and conserve your resources is a tough calculation. During my illness, people often encouraged me to “go out and have fun” from a misguided perspective that I was tired because I was depressed and needed to be cheered up. Occasionally those outings gave me a renewed determination to get healthy, but more often they just sapped my already-low resources.
Sometimes, however, making a bold grab for life is exactly what is called for. The future remains unclear for Liza Heaton, but read on to see how she took her chance to reach for joy and what happened afterward.
On Saturday, December 13, 2014, Liza Heaton, 25, had just received devastating news. Less than a week before, she was told that a rare cancer called synovial sarcoma had returned after three years of remission, and she had only weeks to live. A chemotherapy treatment could have helped, but a gastrointestinal obstruction made the treatment impossible. Liza’s oncologists in Baltimore recommended hospice and palliative care.
Liza gathered 150 friends and family in her home state of Louisiana to say good-bye, and surprised them with a wedding instead.
Liza and her longtime boyfriend, Wyatt, had spoken about getting married before. But “when they said it would not be months, but weeks, I took that to mean a wedding was off the table,” Liza said. “Wyatt took it to mean, okay, we have to get married this weekend.”
The two decided to do it and, with just a few days’ notice, were married at Cross Lake near Shreveport, Louisiana. The wedding was a spirited celebration, despite the circumstances. Although she had been bedridden most of the previous week, Liza danced and partied for hours, soaking up the joy and love she shared with her family and friends.
The day after the wedding, there was an amazing development in Liza’s health. The obstruction that prevented Liza’s treatment cleared and her oncologists were able to prescribe a chemotherapy pill that could halt the progress of the tumors.
Her family said that they hoped the pill would stop the growth of the tumors enough to enable Liza to join a clinical trial that could treat the cancer in the spring.
What was Liza’s perspective? “Maybe it will turn around, and if it doesn’t, enjoy what you have. Enjoy the time you have left,” she said.
For Today: We don’t all have a fiancé waiting to throw us a wedding, but we do all have things that would bring us joy that we have put off for one reason or another. What could you do to remind your body and mind how connected you are and how much joy there is to be had in the here and now?
©2015 by Janette Hillis-Jaffe. All rights reserved.
Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, New Page Books.
a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371.
Everyday Healing: Stand Up, Take Charge, and Get Your Health Back...One Day at a Time
by Janette Hillis-Jaffe.
About the Author
Janette Hillis-Jaffe is a sought-after speaker, consultant and coach, with a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She spent thousands of hours studying counseling, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and the U.S. health care system during her successful effort to heal from her own six-year debilitating autoimmune disorder. She is passionate about supporting others to take charge and achieve their best health possible.