There are many things l love about my job, but the main one is probably seeing people who were told that nothing could be done to help them get much better. Very occasionally though, that doesn’t happen. There’s usually a reason behind it and the more self aware we are, the easier it is to understand. You probably know someone who’s been ill for years, tried everything and yet made no or very little progress, so let me explain why that might be by telling you my story.
A few weeks ago I was enjoying an afternoon walk up Long Mynd, my favourite Shropshire Hill. At the top we spent a few minutes enjoying the views before wandering off along a sheep track to work out the best way back down. I lost my footing, and did a spectacular backwards somersault downhill, somehow landing on my front. Luckily I stopped just before reaching the sheer drop, by fall cushioned by clumps of heather and bilberry bushes. I actually quite enjoyed my little tumble, and at the time was completely unhurt.
But the next day I had some pain in my left shoulder which made it hard to move. Depsite having 100 or so herbs in my dispensary, many of which would have helped, I left them there, thinking the pain might go on its own. A couple of days later, I sprayed some ‘Deep Heat’ onto my shoulder. It helped a bit but as some had got into my face it wasn’t worth risking that again a second time.
Three weeks later my shoulder was still really uncomfortable and the movement really restricted. I still hadn’t taken any herbs and I began to ask myself why.
The answer was obvious.
I wanted to be the patient. What I mean is, I wanted to have an hour or so where I was on the receiving end of the care I usually give. I wanted someone else to ask me the questions, examine me, and treat me.
I love my job. I love being a mum and carer to my son, and I wouldn’t swap any of it, but there needs to be a balance between carer and cared-for. At that point my inner clearly thought that balance needed to be redressed, and so by self sabotaging I’d created the perfect reason to become someone else’s patient. This wasn’t done consciously or on purpose. Our subconscious always aims to act in our best interests, and if situation isn’t working for us, it will usually force us in another direction in the end.
Last week I saw an Osteopath, and came away with much less pain and much more movement! I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoyed being the patient for once!
In therapy terms we call this secondary gain, and it happens when an illness or injury serves a purpose which makes it difficult to move on from. The most common example I see in my clinic is the person who hates their job. The chronic illness that keeps them off work is also keeping them away from an environment which is making them really miserable. In Japan, hating your job is actually recognised as a cause of death, so long term sickness would definitely be the preferred option given the choice! The obvious answer is to find a new job that makes you happier, but the prospect is rather too daunting for many people to manage on their own. It’s one reason why I incorporated coaching into my practice a few years ago, because herbs alone are not going to move someone into a happier situation.
Other examples include where people who’ve spent decades caring for other people develop a chronic illness in middle age, forcing their family and friends to rally around after them. Any GP will tell you about the patients who visit regularly but never get better, or don’t seem to have much wrong in the first place. Often these people are very lonely, so their illness makes sure they get someone to talk to for 10 minutes every now and again. When this happens, they won’t recover until the loneliness is addressed.
So what’s the answer? Usually some soul searching is in order to find out what message the illness has, or what purpose it serves in order to move on from it. Once they understand, some patients choose to make drastic changes to their lives, and that can obviously come with a degree of upheaval. Others find that some work on themselves and the way they see things is enough to move them towards a recovery.
Are you struggling to recover from a chronic illness?
Maybe secondary gain is part of the problem for you too. Book your free call now to tell me more about what’s going on.