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The Art of Wholehearted Living and Chronic Illness

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

There was a period of time when I thought I wanted to be a life coach. Specifically, a breakup coach. I wanted to help people take back control of their lives post-narcissistic abuse the same way I did.

That’s become a very normal thing in our culture. We conquer something and decide we want to help other people do it too. It’s admirable. For me, it wasn’t the ultimate path.

I didn’t utilize a life coach to help me recover from my breakup. I utilized therapy. A great deal of it. And, regardless of how much I thrived after my recovery, it didn’t equip me to deal with other people’s trauma. It was a slippery slope and I didn’t feel aligned with the mission enough to figure out how to maneuver it.

One of the things I found most profound during my own breakup recovery was the unexpected way old traumas came up as they had space to. It was like, as I cleaned things up from the surface, the old mess didn’t have anything keeping it hidden anymore. This is probably what keeps a lot of people from addressing their baggage. They don’t want the old traumas and scars to surface. They think it’s safer if it stays packed away below the surface. Out of sight out of mind. But that’s not real.

As things came up, I was able to finally heal. I was able to address things head on that I’d skirted around for over a decade and release them. It wasn’t pretty. Working through your shit is not a tidy process you can wrap a bow around and set out for company to see, but it’s the most important work we’ll ever do, because without it, are we ever truly living?

There was a fair amount of unpacking for me to do, and I never could’ve decided what order to unpack it all in. It wasn’t up to me. It just kind of… came up. I don’t know what name you want to call it, but it took on a life of its own. My Knowing would just handed me shit and say, “Here, deal with this now. It’s time.” So I’d take it and I’d deal with it. Or rather, I’d walk into my therapist’s office and say, “Camishe, I need to address this now,” and off we’d go.

There were several things I had to get out of the way before I was ready to come out. And I had to come out before I was ready to address whatever was wrong with my body. That was the order things needed to take. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. Hindsight and all that.

One thing we talked about a lot throughout my coach training program was how the way you show up in one area of your life, is likely how you’re showing up in many areas of your life. To that end, it’s a similar story when there’s something wrong with your body - when one area of your body is impacted, it tends to impact other areas. In other words - everything is connected.

Coming out was the ultimate display of coming home to myself. It was a declaration that I matter - that what I want and need matters. After years of talking myself out of my feelings, I finally started owning them. It was the most important gift I’d ever given myself, to stop denying myself the right to be who I am, wholeheartedly. Once I took ownership of this part of myself, it started spilling over into every other aspect of my life, as it does.

I’d spent nearly 2 decades talking myself out of my feelings. I was well practiced in second guessing myself. The level of trust I had in my ability to inherently know what I needed was nil. How could this not spill over into other areas of my life? Including (but certainly not limited to) my health?

Once I decided to take ownership of my sexuality, a weight was lifted. It was like suddenly anything was possible. Learning to trust myself had to happen in steps, but this particular one was less of a step and more of a vaulted leap. It caused a monumental shift inside of me. My self-confidence flourished in ways I’d always hoped for but never managed in the past. It was like I could finally see myself clearly.

I’d been so busy chasing after some magic I sensed in other people, trying to stand close enough to it, hoping I could capture a bit of it, totally unaware that I was the keeper of that magic the entire time. It was me. I was seeing the parts of myself that were trapped beneath all the fear, insecurity and doubt.

Once I was able to grab hold of these things, take ownership of my own magic, it was only a matter of time before I had to face what was happening to my body physically.

During this time when I was working hard to heal from my breakup, my therapist had me download Brené Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability. She specifically told me to listen to it, and I will recommend the same to you. It’s a totally different experience than reading it and I can’t recommend it enough.

I’ve since listened to that audio book upwards of 5 times. It resonated deeply. It turned me on to the act and art of living wholeheartedly. I started gathering all the information I could find on what it meant to live wholeheartedly, not just from Brené’s work, but other places online too. I wanted to know what other people were saying about it, how they interpreted it. I wanted to figure out where in my life I was living wholeheartedly and what areas still needed work.

Choosing to be on a mission to wholehearted living held me accountable. It still holds me accountable.

  • Does a wholehearted person deny who they are for the comfort of others? No.

  • Does a wholehearted person choose comfort over standing for what’s right? No.

  • Does a wholehearted person choose their own physical suffering over fighting for themselves? No.

It’s a mantra.

I had to learn how to live wholeheartedly in order to advocate for myself. It happened in layers and waves. It was the least linear process I’ve ever experienced. It was messy and entirely imperfect. It was in moments fire and calamity and in others a reposeful fortitude.

It’s not work you do by accident. It takes intention and purpose. It takes near constant vigilance and stubborn determination because I’m telling you what, it can be a frustrating process. Unlearning old thoughts, behaviors and patterns, learning new ones, implementing, catching yourself in the act of old habits and course correcting - lather, rinse, repeat. It’s exhausting. But it’s worth it.

That seems worth repeating: It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it.

I come back to these same principles constantly when it comes to dealing with my chronic health conditions. Toxic thought patterns and old behaviors try to creep back in and it’s my job to catch them and rewrite the story I’m telling myself. These stories become our behaviors. We have to rewrite the ones that are keeping us stuck.

If I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with a specific doctor I step back and ask myself, “What story am I telling myself about what’s happening here?”

I pick apart the situation:

  • What is the problem?

  • What do I need?

  • What expectations do I have here?

  • What do I need from this doctor that I’m not currently receiving?

I take a magnifying glass to the situation and assess.

Now of course that productive practice of unpacking the real story sometimes happens after I’ve had a meltdown out of sheer frustration and I needed to throw a fit about it first. But regardless, I get there.

How we handle one part of our lives is likely how we’re handling another. It's an uncomfortable truth to look at. How I was handling my health conditions was an abomination. What do we expect to happen when we decide to abandon ourselves? What good do we think is going to come from denying ourselves the gift of living our most authentic lives? And, who is profiting from our total lack of trust in ourselves?

I couldn’t live wholeheartedly without learning to become a fierce advocate for my health, and I couldn’t learn to become a fierce advocate for my health without first learning to trust myself and my needs and making the choice to say - I am important. What I want and need matters, and I’m allowed to show up in the world exactly as I am. The world can handle it.

Here’s to wholehearted living, friends.

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