Having a chronic or serious illness puts you, like it or not, on a journey of balance and discernment. When is it best to rest? When is it better to take action? What are the differences between healthy surrender and unhealthy collapse?

Because there is no cure, we are invited into patient surrender. This takes practice. Many conditions in the modern age can be cured, so finding out that ours isn’t one of them gives rise to a draft of strong emotions: anger, sadness (even grief), hopelessness. Let those feelings arise. Breathe with them. Find healthy way to express them and then let them go. You are larger than they are. You contain multitudes and those feelings are just a small part of you, even though they can feel huge.

Processing the Big Emotions is no small task. Surrender is often part of that process. Little by little, you will emerge from the maelstrom. When you find yourself back in relatively calm waters, you can look around and see what there is to help you feel clearer, stronger, and more resilient.

Research your options. Read and speak with healthcare providers and other folks who share similar diagnoses. Make yourself a “things I might like to try to feel better” list. (Right now, I’m reading Feel better in 5. When I’ve finished, I will have three new “health snacks” to add to my daily routine.) Try the new thing. Monitor your strength and energy and make adjustments as needed. If you find yourself feeling worse, ease off.

If I push myself too hard, I pay for it with a decrease in energy and increases in pain and cantankerous moods. I want to treat myself as my own best friend: encouraging action, forgiving mistakes, and comforting weakness.

My body – quadriplegic as it is now – is a billboard for surrender. Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis has left me unable to move from the shoulders down. As each body part has become affected, I’ve worked to save and strengthen what was left. As the disease progressed, I had to surrender control, work through my feelings, and move on with what remained. The future is never as hopeless as I imagine it will be. On the other side of surrender, there is light and hope and actions to take to make a home there.

May you find balance with boldness and compassion.