Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Cracked Open

There are events in our lives that as a culture we all remember like the day Kennedy was shot (if you’re old enough to remember).  On a more personal level there are experiences like graduations, significant birthday celebrations, weddings, and other momentous occasions.  Unfortunately, for those diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, a period in your history that stands out is when the doctor says those magic words, “I’m afraid to tell you but…”.  When I facilitate groups and members tell their diagnosis stories there is an understanding, an empathy, and most of all compassion amongst the group members because everyone remembers the day that their world stood still (even if just for a moment).

So what is it about your diagnosis that cracks you open?  Well it’s obvious that whenever we experience a trauma (and a diagnosis is a trauma) the assumptions we had about life are shattered.  It doesn’t mean that you disintegrate; it just means there is a vulnerability that may not have been conscious prior to that point in your story.  It’s this vulnerability that those who believe their illness was a gift focus on as they move along on their journey to wellness.  I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease as a pre-teen so I grew up with an illness (which I’ll address at a later date), but vulnerability can be the doorway to deeper understanding of your soul.

Over the past 25 years I’ve seen individuals and families reach new levels of self-knowledge, connection, and joy following the diagnosis of a health challenge.  This is where quality of life and relationships becomes the frontrunner for your time and attention.  It also allows you to focus on those things that Tim McGraw sings about in his song, Live Like You Were Dying.  It’s not about the big momentous things, but individual experiences like how you speak to others, how you relate to your family and friends, and most importantly focusing in on what brings you joy.  Let’s face it, joy sparks the immune system and that is important on your journey to wellness.

I know it’s scary to delve into those vulnerable places, and that’s why doing it with support is so important.  It’s about having someone who will accompany you on your journey so that when the surprises happen, and they will, you have someone who can always point your toward your own north star.  It can be a friend, a health and healing coach (such as myself), a spiritual director, a psychotherapist or anyone you trust in and has your best interest at heart.

What have you found to be unearthed vulnerabilities since your diagnosis?  If you’d like to share your experience you can leave a comment below or email me at


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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