"How to be Sick"

That’s the title of a book by a very sick lady named Toni Bernhard. She was a law professor,and suddenly got struck down, not by MAV, but by unspecified illness. She had to say goodbye to her job, her career, even much of her mobility. She offers a perspective that’s Buddhist–not Buddhist-inspired, to my mind, although that’s what she calls it–but firmly devoted to Buddhist teachings.

If, for example, acceptance of suffering as a primary feature of existence is not something you want to read about, this won’t be your cup of tea. If, OTOH, you can put together something useful out of concepts such as “no fixed self,” “opening your heart to suffering,” lovingkindness, and faking joy for others until you feel it, maybe she’s got something for you. Me, I find interesting bits in it, but ultimately I’m not interested in pursuing a similar path.

$16.–, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2010.

Sounds like an interesting read David. While I’m not sure exactly how she tackles this, it does sound like she suggests you have to accept that a chronic illness may be here to stay though it doesn’t mean your life is over by any means. I’ve sort of come to accept that the anxiety and fear and power this can have over me in certain circumstances may in some ways be part of my own personality. When I was freaking about the job start, if I role-played being the illness (something I checked out through this counsellor friend of mine) I suddenly felt quite powerful, relaxed and felt like a real *sshiole as I was – metaphorically speaking – trying to destroy Scott’s life. Sounds like psycho babble (I can already see and hear Vic getting out her shot gun and loading it with buck shot :lol: ) but was an interesting exercise nonetheless and stopped me from freaking out when I stopped hating it and tried to accept that nasty aspect of it.

Anyway, I can understand your not wanting to go down that road and be immersed in reading it. I don’t want to keep thinking about it like that either – as in how to be sick. I’d rather not associate myself with the word “sick” or “ill” if I happen to be feeling well and the monster is asleep thanks all the same.


Hi David,

I can understand this idea to a point. Having being diagnosed with ME (nobody really recognizes that either) also having a low back problem that has stopped me being who I was 20 years ago. I used to love anything athletic, tennis, swimming etc. (still love it but hate watching others doing it, brings back I cant anymore) So you get ill, you fight to get back your health, it doesnt happen, you get knocked back, you try again and again, then you realize that you are stressing and getting frustrated and your health is suffering more through it. So, yes, I think, after a number of years of trying numerous different preventatives for MAV, trailing the country to see different consultants for migraine and ears, lots of nasty tests that get you nowhere, simply for your sanity, there has to be a level of acceptance, then you can appreciate the good days and do something constructive with them. I think trying to strike a balance helps, acceptance that the life we have is not the one we started with, or the one we prefer, but it is as it is but at the same time, still being active in looking for answers, but not obsessive.

I am not sure what to think of the budhist way of thinking, most of their ideas always lead me back to … boredem :lol:


I think all the world’s great religions have something valuable to teach us - though some of the terms used in the lessons might be jarring (I think “sick” is off-putting, but it does get your attention).

I do like the Buddhist mindset of acceptance - the wanting of something other than what is and what one has causes suffering. Letting go of the “fight” against what we cannot change is different than striving to lead a healthy lifestyle: I think few people are more disciplined than some of those Buddist monks, in what they eat and how they sleep on a regular schedule! (Not eating junk, never overeating, and sleeping on a regular schedule - you’d think they were trying to fix a migraine problem!)

When I was laid up with some broken bones and had surgery to fix them, I remember feeling pulled toward depression. I told myself that other people had it much worse - I didn’t have amputations, and some hardware inside me made me bionic but at least I was still whole, unlike people who had lost parts of themselves. So I used that gratitude to help pull me out of the funk (most of the time - I still had some tearful moments), and it helped me to accept the reality that I couldn’t change.

I think it has to do with emphasis and focus - sometimes human nature pulls us toward negative thoughts in reaction to bad circumstances, and Buddhism teaches that we don’t have to go there if we train ourselves to think in different ways. But it does take discipline and effort. It ain’t easy to accept some of the hands we’ve been dealt!

Hi David,
After spending years trying to find the answers and having some pretty *hitty side effects from med trials , My Daughter said to me Mum your becoming your illness
I want you to stop fighting this and just be you again!
Her statement said it all, yes it broke my heart , but she was right.
Out of the mouths of babes.

I knew she had already suffered as a daughter of a sick mum.
She is my life! and I need to be getting on with it as best as I can and Not dwelling as I did for many sad years.
Exceptance is SO hard , but I believe my exceptance of this Mav monster , with all it’s agressiveness might steel some parts of my Life, But I’m not going to let it steel my happiness anymore!
life is too important to dwell and far too darn short.

I ignore the beast now, and it (I) feel better. :wink: