This guest article left me thinking, thinking so deeply. I know you will be left thinking too….
None of this is your fault.
Written by Dr. Cynthia Li, MD, a fellow Hypothyroid Mom
- A clinical diagnosis doesn’t capture the breadth and depth of living with a thyroid illness.
A diagnosis is a medical name for identifying and communicating the nature of a disease. It is clear, systematized, and succinct. An illness is your experience of the disease. It is messy, individualized, and expansive.
- There is a difference between wholeness and wellness.
Wellness depends on a healthy body. Diets, stress management, medication, exercise, and supplements—they aim for wellness. Wholeness, however, is an innate quality of the soul that transcends health outcomes. Wholeness says, “I am not broken,” even in the darkest of times.
- A person has value not because she does, but because she is.
One by one, culture-based identities may fall prey to illness—your profession, your marriage, your social status—not to mention your sense of personal accomplishment as a parent, a lover, or a friend. True worth isn’t based on a checklist; rather, it is based on your intrinsic human being, your integral part in the collective consciousness.
- It’s okay to come undone. It’s healthy, in fact.
Grief touches everyone. Studies show grief increases inflammation inside the body and brain, thereby increasing the risk for disease or worsening symptoms. So cry a little. Better yet, cry a lot. Find a holder—a friend who provides a metaphorical lap—to be your witness. No fixing. No soothing. Just a sense of gentle containment so you don’t fall into despair.
- A patient is aptly called a patient. Some, a patienter or patientest.
Everyone faces unique challenges. Some may be greater than others. Pathology is the study of disease. The word derives from pathos + logos, or the study of suffering. To endure means to suffer patiently. A patient, then, is someone who endures.
- The art of living is the art of loving is the art of healing.
In medicine, the focus is on the loss of the body. But what of the soul? The art of living and the art of loving weave the concrete spaces together with the soul space. The art of healing must, too.
- If no one hears, if no one sees, if no one understands, remember to hear and see and understand yourself.
The experience of invisibility that accompanies many thyroid conditions can itself perpetuate inflammation. The invisibility may be to families and friends—you look well, or you look well relative to how you feel. The invisibility may also be to the medical community—your labs or imaging studies are normal, or “within the reference range.” Look in the mirror every day, naked if you are willing. See yourself. Hear yourself. Guard yourself as you would your own child.
- “Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate of the wounds of others.” -Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
The wounded healer archetype is based on the myth of Chiron, a centaur who was rejected by his parents, then raised and educated by Apollo. It was through his own wounds that he became a notable doctor. Like Chiron, you may have sustained wounds as a young child—an all too common a pattern. Like Chiron, it is your own hurt that gives you the power to heal others.
- You are not your illness.
Your illness doesn’t own you. Nor does it define you. The chronicity and intensity of it, though, surely create that illusion.
- None of this is your fault.
Once upon a time, illness was deemed the patient’s own fault (in religious traditions, for having sinned). Modern science tells us otherwise. Hypothyroidism—any chronic disease, really—is part genetics, part environment. “Environment” refers to a lifetime’s worth of exposures: infectious, nutritional, chemical, physical, and social. So free yourself from blame, an often overlooked element of self-attacking-self. To stop there, however, would reduce you to a result of chromosomes and exposures. Go deeper. At the heart of healing is the discovery of your most essential nature, that which transforms you from existing to deep living.
About Cynthia Li, MD
Dr. Cynthia Li is board-certified in internal medicine. She has a private consultation practice in Berkeley, CA, where she applies the principles of functional medicine, a comprehensive approach that addresses root imbalances for chronic conditions. Cynthia is writing a memoir about a mystery: the mystery of her own patient case. She explores what her autoimmune thyroiditis taught her about love, sex, and health. She lives with her husband, their two daughters, a hyperactive Labradoodle, and their 50,000 honeybees.