Reading posts with depression tags is common for me when I have time. Early this morning I read on a WordPress blog: Me Before You, the post is about a book Sheryl is currently reading.
I understand fully what it is to want to end life; previous thoughts of suicide was about escaping sorrow engulfing me brought on by traumatic experiences. I know what it is to be tormented with thoughts so discouraging there seems to be no other escape. I have learned to speak back to negative thoughts, counter them with positive words.
I buy books at the library and read on the Internet anything that will help battle discouragement. Currently I am reading a book published in 1989, Peace, Love and Healing by Bernie Siegel, M.D., a steal at $1.50, libraries sell books for much less than elsewhere. The Open Library has a copy of this book and many others you can read free online, all that is required is creating a user name and password.
Dr. Siegel’s book includes studies and individual testimonies that prove healing is linked to our outlook; it emphasizes the importance of loving ourselves, others and life no matter where we are physically, financially or otherwise. Dr. Siegel states that it is important to express all of our feelings, both negative and positive. Keeping what is bothering us inside only creates more problems, hence, those of us who share our struggles are doing the right thing. The problem lies in not acknowledging the positive in our lives too. We can heal through body/mind communication.
Peace, Love and Healing is about people who had a terminal illness but turned it around and lived, astounding their doctors. Dr. Siegel states: It takes more distress and poison to kill someone who has peace of mind and loves life (page 35). That makes sense, because if we love life we will want to live.
I could not find a form of the book online that could be copied, but thought the beautiful testimony of Evy McDonald was worth typing it out. I hope her story encourages you as it did me.
Below is a TedTalks video that explains what we believe affects us physically.
Evy McDonald’s Journey to Being Whole
Accepting that she was okay within herself became the foremost challenge of an extraordinary young woman named Evy McDonald, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1980. She was told by her neurologist, “Evy, you have six to twelve months to live. If you want to do something nice, leave your body to science.” That afternoon she was fired from her job as a nurse, because she had been out sick so much. That evening she discovered her apartment had been broken into and all her valuables stolen. At that point she decided her doctor’s advice sounded pretty good.
Evy’s Letter to Dr. Siegel
In a letter to me she wrote, “Death seemed inevitable, and a part of me was looking forward to ending this life. Yet I had unfinished business, a strong compulsion to discover what unconditional love was about before I died.” Note that Evy did not deny her mortality. But people like her don’t come home to die just because some doctor has sentenced them. They use their diagnosis as a spur to start living, and then feel too good to die.
Evy knew that her journey would begin with an acceptance of her own body, which she had always hated, and in an article she describes how she accomplished that first step towards self-love.
There I sat in front of a mirror in my wheelchair. In the six months I had been diagnosed as having ALS, my once firm, strong muscles had wasted away into flaccid, useless ones. I was dying of a particularly rapid form of this incurable disease and had, at best, six months to live. I looked with disgust at my deteriorating body. I hated it. The mirrored reflection of one spindly, ill-shaped leg…paired with a mammoth, once muscular leg was now hideous to me…
As the hours of my day were now regulated to sitting alone in my wheelchair, I began to observe rather than react to my thoughts. I noticed there was one consistent thread throughout the fabric of my life-a relentless obsession with weight. I was sure that if I became skinny enough, an admirable body would magically greet me in the mirror.
As I sat in my wheelchair, six months from death, a single passionate desire pressed to the front of my mind. In the last months of life I wanted to experience unconditional love. I wanted to know that sweetness. But how could I hope to realize that goal if I couldn’t even accept my own body?
Was it just a coincidence that I had always wanted a smaller body?
The first step was to notice and write down how many negative thoughts I had about my body in the course of each day, and how many positive ones. When I saw the huge preponderance of negative thoughts on paper, I was forced to confront the degree of hatred I had for my body.
To counter this habitual and ingrained negativity, I would choose one aspect of my physical body that was acceptable to me, no matter how small. Next I used that item to begin the rewriting. Every negative thought would be followed by positive statement like: “and my hair is truly pretty” or “I have lovely hands” or “my bright eyes and warm smile light up my face.” Each day a new positive item would be added as the rewriting continued.
I felt like a jigsaw puzzle being placed back together; and when the last bit was in place, my mind shifted and saw the whole perfect picture. I couldn’t pinpoint just when the shift occurred, but one day I noticed that I had no negative thoughts about my body. I could look in the mirror at my naked reflection and be honestly awed by its beauty. I was truly at peace, with a complete unalterable acceptance of the way my body was—a bowl of Jello in a wheelchair.
(skipping a paragraph here)
Once the old scripts and demeaning images were finally and totally gone, they were to never to emerge again. I accepted my body. It didn’t need to be any different; it could be whatever it was, and become whatever it was to be…
This was one step in a journey over time that brought about unexpected and unsolicited physical improvements. But had the outcome been different and the deterioration of my body continued, it would not have altered or diminished the inherent beauty I now accepted.
My illness was a challenge and a gift. I was stimulated to examine my deepest thoughts, desires and beliefs. The journey of self-discovery restructured my life and led me into a powerful experience of the mind-body connection.
Dr. Siegel continues…
Her physical body stopped deteriorating (in other words it didn’t die) and began to reverse the havoc wreaked by ALS. Evy states in her letter: “The reversal was a by-product of the other changes. Physical healing did not occur because I set out to heal myself, but because my job on earth was not complete. Since then I joyously awake each day, filled with enthusiasm and continue to play my role in the transformation of medical practice.” Notice her goal was to discover the experience of unconditional love, not to avoid dying. So she was not setting herself up for failure, but for an experience that was always within her power to give herself. Love and healing are always possible even when a cure is not
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There is much more in this book about healing ourselves, I do not have the time to share all the information that it offers. I have not finished reading the book but I’m looking forward to finishing it this weekend, when I do there will be another post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Evy McDonald’s story.
It turns out it is true what we already knew, love heals.
Much love ❤