A friend was behind in her book club reading. “I have to read four chapters,” she sighed. Editing herself, she amended “I choose to read four chapters.” I suggested “you get to read four chapters.” She was re-ordering her thinking as we listened. Living with chronic health issues requires similar discipline.

As health concerns arise, you get to listen to your body in a new way. What is it asking of you? How do you need help? Competent health practitioners will help you figure it out. The listening doesn’t stop as symptoms and Treatments come and go.

Speaking of treatments, it is a discipline to follow medical advice. Sometimes it’s hard to rest; sometimes it’s hard to get moving. Often, what’s medically best is the opposite of what you want to do. “Hi, I’m Tom, I’ll be your physical terrorist today,” one therapist said by way of introduction one day. He understood that what he asked of me wasn’t easy.

With confident, highly-educated people surrounding you, it’s sometimes hard to argue with them. Still, you are the expert. You’ve been living in your body since birth. It’s your job to tell them what’s going on and stand up for what your body needs. Self-advocacy takes gumption and discipline.

Throughout, please practice the discipline of self-compassion. You might think “what did I do wrong to cause this?” Even if your actions are partly the cause of your distress, you probably didn’t mean to do it. Be kind to yourself. Being ill is difficult. No one has done this before (been you in this body with this illness at this time). You are doing the best you can. Be gentle with yourself.

When you are faced with a health issue, “discipline” may not be the word that springs to mind. It simply means committing to something’and doing it even if no one is watching. Commit two listening to your body. Commit to yourself. Commit to self-compassion. Congratulations, you get to spend time making your well-being a priority.

In your journal:

  • write a letter from your body
  • which medical advice is easy to follow? Which is hard?
  • What does your medical team need to know about how to take care of your?
  • Write a love letter to yourself about your health challenges.