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You Don’t Need to Fix Yourself to Be Healed

Calm Acceptance

“Growth begins when we begin to accept our weaknesses.” -Jean Vanier

I used to believe the word “healed” had a very specific meaning. In my mind, it described a state of perfection that always looked very different from the chronic health challenges I endured.

Being born with VACTERL Association, a birth disorder that causes malformations in six of the body’s systems, meant that I entered the world needing a lot of fixes. There were surgeries, hospitalizations, treatments, and medications aimed at perfecting something inherently imperfect.

The Search

I grew up searching. To be like everyone else. For a cure. For Peace. Clarity. Happiness. Always searching for a technique or philosophy that could mold me into the ideal woman I imagined I should be.

My search was fueled by a very narrow view of “normal,” “beautiful,” and “successful.” Images perpetuated on magazine covers and a myriad of self-help manifestos told me that life was good only if you could figure out how to become flawless, inside and out.

I read hundreds of books, attended seminars, journaled, meditated, said affirmations, communed with my inner child, prayed, eventually begged, finally groveled. And nothing.

Well, there was something. I found out that I was going to need a kidney transplant.

I assumed this prognosis meant that I wasn’t being “spiritual” enough. I needed to try harder. I saw the decline in my kidney function as a manifestation of negativity in my emotions. Maybe the damage was subconscious?

I saw healers and hypnotherapists. I listened to subliminal message tapes. I reviewed my memories, and looked, and looked, and looked for the cause of my current predicament. And still nothing.

All that came out of my search was restlessness and desire to search more.

I was operating under the assumption that if I meditated masterfully, became enlightened, or at least healed old emotional wounds than life would bend toward my will. It followed that since life was not yet how I wanted it, something must be wrong with me. I needed to find the fix.

As I stewed in my own spiritual turmoil, my kidney function continued to decline. The pressure I had placed on myself to not just find the cure, but to become the cure was making things worse.

Life is Suffering

I thought “healed” meant that life became the way you wanted it to be. I could not have been further from the truth. I had missed the most basic of Buddhist principles: life is suffering.

Becoming spiritual does not mean that we are no longer human. It doesn’t take away the pain, illness, and stress; it only reframes it. Suffering tells us that we are inherently human. Coping with human challenges does not mean that we are less-than or that we are damaged; it only means that we are experiencing things all human beings experience.

The trick is not to bend life’s will to our personal desires. It is the other way around. We must find the flexibility to bend to Life. That is what I had been missing.

There Was Nothing to Find

All of that searching took me to the most basic of places: exactly right where I was. Nothing to fix. Nothing to do. Nothing to become.

I no longer see “healed” as some form of perfection. It isn’t a certain health status, lab value, or lack of a diagnosis. Healed isn’t remission or cure. It isn’t any specific thing.

Healed is the willingness to unconditionally accept whatever life is at this exact moment.

My kidney is now flirting with the edge of kidney failure. Transplant plans are in the works. Sometimes I feel scared or worried. Sometimes I cry. Those are things I accept too. I no longer need to always be positive. I don’t force myself to be anything other than exactly what I am.

I’m learning to yield. It is a practice. I still have latent urges to “figure this out” or to be the miracle doctors cannot explain, and those tendencies get welcomed into my experience as well.

That’s the thing about acceptance: it doesn’t require searching. It is always available. Simply knowing that these rough edges are part of being here in a body, on earth, lifted a huge weight off of me.

I am healed. Even as I face surgery and a lifetime of medication, I am healed. At peace. With clarity. Content. Happy.

Photo by Cornelia Kopp

Avatar of Danea Horn

About Danea Horn

Danea Horn is the author of Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Coping with the Stress of Illness (Conari Press, August 2013). Visit her at www.ChronicResilience.com for more tips to live gracefully with challenging health and receive a free gift. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • RandyH

    Danea you have moved me almost to tears this morning. This is one of the bravest, most poignant articles I’ve read in a while. Your acceptance of “what is” should be an inspiration to us all! Beautiful article and a beautiful smile!

    Thanks and peace to you…

  • Miguel

    Bless you, Danea. This is a beautiful article. All the best to you and thanks.

  • Cup_O_Jo

    It took me therapy to learn this exact thing when diagnosed with MS. Good luck. I was just watching this thing called a Kidney Chain on the news. You;ll be fine.

  • Judy Crawford

    Yes, bless you all ways. Your words touched a deep need inside of me today. I have saved what you’ve written so that I can understand it more. Thank you.

  • Lisa Gardner

    You just changed my life with one sentence: “Healed is the willingness to unconditionally accept whatever life is at this exact moment.” My brain constantly tries to figure out what’s going on so I can figure out how to get what I want — i.e., make life bend to my will. All of my enlightenment and healing has been with the intention to improve my “skills” so I can make the results I want. I realize now, that’s the result of not accepting each given moment. Thank you. Bless you.

  • lilsony

    A beautifully written piece. No bells and whistles or instant solutions. I appreciate your article, Danea, and I send you peace and blessings, and positive vibes through the trying time you are facing.

  • Stefanie

    Thank you so much for this piece. I too have found myself constantly searching and trying to “figure out” my situations and be a “better me.” I over intellectualize everything eventually finding myself more frustrated, more drained and equally confused as I was when I began. Reading your words reminded me that I am human and therefore perfect just the way I am. Remembering that life is suffering for EVERYONE and that no one has it figured out will have to be my new mantra. I am healed and you have helped tremendously

  • Joshua

    Great read. Nothing to do, nowhere to go.

    Time to meditate.

  • Julie

    Great article and reminder. Good luck to you on your path.

  • Kat

    Thank you. Amazing read, helped me a lot. All the best to you and good luck on your path

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post! I love the section under suffering, that is a wonderful perspective! Your story and perspectives really resonated with me since I find myself searching all the time…Thank you so much, and I wish you a to have a transplant soon, and speedy recovery! :)

  • Catherine Kelly

    I identified so much with what you have said; thank you for sharing this vital information. I will now look at my life in a very different manner. Good luck with your health in the future. xx

  • Lily

    you summed up so eloquently a complex issue, and took my understanding one step further. I had a real aha moment reading this. I have a friend with a debilitating health condition and sometimes I felt she had given up since she does not consult with anyone to improve her health but maybe it’s a case that she is accepting her present without protest?

  • Seeta Rajesh

    Beautiful post there Danea. Amazing resilience you portray and also showed us how to live with the toughest of the challenges. I loved the way you wrote your heart out, and went out there to seek guidance spiritually to fix your problems. But as you and many say…Life is a Suffering..and we chose it even before coming on earth…So these are our choices consciously made, even before we are born..and we do this, so that whilst our stay on earth, we live through this pain and suffering and purify our souls even further…and rise to a higher realm. I’m glad I could read your experience. And wish you luck in this tough journey of life of yours..But I’m sure your guardian angles will be watching over you and they know you are ‘Healed Spiritually’. Take care dear.

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Danea – this was just such an insightful and brave post – and you are so right – the healing is the acceptance, anything more is a bonus. I like how you draw on Buddha’s wisdom that life is suffering (it’s also joy). As well as appreciating Buddha’s wisdom I look to yin yang philosophy to see that the pain sits with the gain, gain comes from pain – there are no black and whites and the point of balance is acceptance of the now (that will inevitably change, and I hope for the better for you and your health). Thank you.

  • islngrl

    I can’t tell you how much reading your post helps me. I’ve been a widow and single mom for 10 years and constantly look for ways to fix myself. All in hopes to achieve happiness. I struggle almost daily searching for something to help me find my inner peace thinking if I do something or find someone, I will be ok. This site has helped me through a lot of that but your article in particular has me thinking that I will be ok because I already am. No fixing needed, just need to let things be what they are and go with the flow as best as I know it. Thank you for this.

  • Uzma

    Danae. God bless you and give you even greater peace and inner strength. You are an inspiration.

  • growthguided

    Thank you for your vulnerability Danea

    Have a great weekend!

    Contact me if you want to post on GrowthGuided

  • Court

    I truly, truly love this article. Thank you sooo much for this, and my heart goes out to you totally.

  • Shaambhavi Pathak

    I am impressed by your list, however, I believe a family is a person’s biggest support to stay positive. There is a lot of encouragement that a family can give to an individual. This will help him see his goals clearly.

    There are other things besides family. Read on to find more here:

    http://salveovita.com/blog/inculcating-positive-lifestyle

  • http://www.justloveyourself.com/ Jill – Just Love Yourself

    Hi Danea,
    I too use to believe that I had to change things, fix things and improve things in my life to eventually find happiness, peace and unconditional love. But now I know, just like you, that it is accepting everything for what it is. I now allow myself to express my saddness, instead of trying to change it into something it is now. I now feel more peace, bliss and love than ever before. Good luck with your journey. Jill

  • Tim

    What everyone below says about your words of wisdom is true. This post is a really good message for everyone. After reading this, I thought of accepting something about myself that has been bugging me, and it worked. I immediately felt better. I hope your kidney functions well or your transplant goes well. You have a fantastic outlook on life.