The opening lines of “It’s For You,” by Douglas Penick, Shambala Sun, May, 2014, caught my attention: “bad news can come to feel a little like falling in love.” In this case, the author received a call from his physician informing him that he had cancer. So what is this about falling in love? What is there to love about learning that one has a life threatening disease?
The author goes on to say how facing his disease was an opening up process, which made him feel more alive and full of gratitude. I have no doubt about the author’s sincerity. Many others have written about how serious illness and facing one’s mortality, can be a life enhancing process.
But why must we wait until serious illness strikes before we begin to feel grateful for the life we have been granted? I also question the underlying implicit assumption of illness as an awakening process. It may be for some, but not for all. As a mental health therapist working with those afflicted with chronic, and at times life threatening illness, what has been most frequently communicated were uphill, and at times agonizing challenges like depression, anxiety about the future, physical limitations, living with chronic pain, feelings of social isolation, and economic hardships resulting from the illness. Few have expressed an appreciation for the opportunity for growth resulting from their medical condition and I feel it is unfair and a platitude to those who are struggling.
As one who has survived two potentially deadly illnesses, I was certainly grateful for the opportunity for more life, but I believe I appreciated life just as fully prior to, as well as after being diagnosed. Yes, illness can present an opportunity to open one’s heart, but why wait? NOW is the time to feel gratitude and to live fully each and every day and appreciate life’s wonders.
• Barry Oblas, Ph.D., LCSW, is a mental health therapist practicing in Ahwatukee. Reach him at (602) 469-0899 or www.DrOatFoothillscounseling.com.