“It is painful to suffer illness, but the most painful thing of all is to feel abandoned by everyone, that no one cares about you. When the dark hole of despair pierces your heart, your life force drains away. That is why it is so important not to abandon or forget those who are sick or in trouble. We need to continuously and gently communicate to them that we sincerely want them to get better.” – Daisaku Ikeda
This quote speaks to me as a Buddhist who suffers from chronic illness. Throughout all of my life I have suffered with heart problems, asthma and other lung issues, digestive health problems, and most recently, increased frequency of migraines. I would shy away from talking about these problems with others as I felt I didn’t want to seem selfish or like I needed attention or pity. But people cannot physically see my health issues and so they often assume I am healthy.
Two important values I hold onto today are firstly that dialogue is important, and secondly, one can turn poison into medicine. When I started opening up about my issues and creating dialogue with others about them, I felt people slowly but surely pull away from me. Moreover, there was great stigma surrounding taking medicines for these “unseen” illnesses. Many told me that I should not resort to medicine. This abandonment and discouragement did not help my already existing depression. However, I still held hope. I found within myself to live to the fullest ability. Even if that meant just waking up and getting out of bed. Even if that meant simply making all of my classes. Some days it meant accomplishing everything in the world, including my thesis proposal. Each day I learned to congratulate myself by accomplishing what I did no matter how small.
For those who stood by me in these times, I am forever grateful for their friendship. Their compassion has enabled me to heal, little by little, day after day.
Today, I continue to live with my health problems. For some of them, I am able to take medicine to reduce the pain. I have become unashamed of that fact. By taking care of myself, I can take care of others… and it is in helping others that we are truly “healthy.”
The President of my Buddhist organization writes, “Don’t confuse good health with not being sick. A truly healthy life is one spent creating value—tackling the challenges thrown at us over a lifetime, striving to achieve something worthy and meaningful; constantly expanding the frontiers of our lives.”
~here’s their blog https://hopefullotus.wordpress.com/