Illness is a Teacher

This post comes from personal experience. In addition to witnessing and sharing the journey with others on their path to balance.

For years as a personal trainer and yoga teacher/therapist my niche was working with ‘special populations’. I saw everything from post chemo/radiation, cystic fibrosis, cardiac rehab, physical rehab, post-op and emotional trauma. It was a calling. I actually enjoyed researching the origins of conditions and exploring ways that I could be of service. Each of these clients were giving me an opportunity to learn, grow and see the other side of illness – wholeness.

Through various forms of study and research it has been revealed that illness has many avenues of making its way into our lives – genetics, environment, stress, food and lack of self-awareness are just a few that come to mind. Exploring the connection between the mind and body proved the most fascinating. The concept that our thoughts and emotions could foster or hinder the development of dis-ease in our bodies is as old as time.

In my case I was a healthy specimen by all counts.  Factors leading to illness included the environment, thought perception, stress, anxiety and a constant push to be better, accepted by others and apparently my destiny were all major contributing factors. I was actually told by my neuroendocrinologist that it was my destiny to become ill. Now most of you might be thinking that this statement is absurd, but when it was spoken, I was struck. This statement rang like a clear bell in my ear. If it was indeed my destiny to be ill, then it was my responsibility to learn from it and get back into to balance.

Illness manifested in the form of a hyper active thyroid – it regulates so many things, astounding how a little gland could be responsible for so much.  Aside from its regulatory duties it’s located at the base of the throat which from an energetic standpoint is associated with creativity, healthy expression of thoughts and emotions. The thyroid is also part of the endocrine system which ties into reproductive organs. When it’s in a hyper state it can wreak havoc on the eyes, heart and lungs. In this case the results were anxiety attacks, deformed face, body riddled with edema and hyper-pigmented skin. To top it off – let’s shave off all the hair on my head to androgynize a female in conflict. There were other factors that exacerbated the situation and put things in crisis mode, but thankfully I am here to tell the tale.

Let’s sum it up – this case study makes for an interesting recipe – unresolved issues regarding femininity, attachment to being a mother and being over driven made for an imbalance. Additional thoughts and emotions relating to these factors gave way to a system in overdrive.


Believing in your ability to heal is incredibly powerful, but sometimes you need assistance. There was resistance to using allopathic medicine and I needed to get over it. This was a period of adjustment. There was plenty of research done on how the medication could affect the rest of the body and it wasn’t pretty, but fortunately the neuroendocrinologist knew how to integrate anthroposophic medicine to mitigate the effects of the medication. In addition to that there were herbs, modified diet, restorative yoga, meditation and of course the mind (the greatest tool we have) that attributed to the road to recovery.

It wasn’t about fighting the disease, it was about using all of the other tools to bring the body back into balance. If we are against something it can cause us to hinder the very parts of us that can aid in our recovery. Time to embrace the process and learn from it.

Self care took on a whole new meaning. Grooming, healthy eating, exercise, massage’s, Yoga, meditation – check, check, check these things were already in place. The true measure of self-care was now replaced with Self Love.

Having a deformed face and body was scary. At first there were screaming fits of crying, asking why it had come to this. Then there was acceptance that it could stay this way. Journaling was a great form of therapy – writing love letters to my face, thyroid, skin and the rest of my organs for having endured a major trial.

For those of us that believe that pushing to achieve a ‘goal’ is the best way to achieve happiness, think again. A great piece of advice  was passed on while in the throes of illness ‘let the world come to you’. Did that mean do nothing or be completely passive – No. Simply put, instead of going full throttle, let things happen in the best way possible, draw the attention back in, be at peace instead of being crippled with worry and angst. This kind of advice is always useful whether you are ill or not.


It took four years to come back into balance and five years later – all systems are in balance. The details around the healing linger. The recovery took longer than it could have, primarily because the lessons were not to be missed.  Like learning how to love a face I didn’t recognize and slowly regain the confidence and resilience to live fully. The illness did not cure me of all my issues, but it did help me learn how to care for myself in more loving and accepting manner.

I made up my mind that I was going to listen very closely to my body and how it feels around thoughts, people and situations. This kind of living is about fine tuning. Tuning into how we feel is a gift to ourselves.

Illness was a means of learning how to love and feel from a deeper place. It also brought  the issue of death into perspective, it’s not the amount of years we are here, it’s what we do with them while we are alive.






2 thoughts on “Illness is a Teacher”

  1. Gorgeous post, Virna Lisa and so timely, as everything is. The universe has been working to teach me lessons for a long time and I still seem to attempt to bulldoze through the scenarios I am not a fan of. This post is one of many great reminders to be gentle, listen and surrender. Thank you so much.

    And maybe this is a summary of a longer book you might write to tell more details of your journey 🙂

  2. Hello Buddha Inspired – Someone just told me I should write more about it, because I have a lot to say about the matter. I wish you a gentle, loving and awe inspiring process. There were parts of it that were super painful and other parts that were full of joy.

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