Illness Explorer is about the exploration of the role of ‘story’ in your health problems.
But it is our firm view that health problems develop usually as a result of a number of factors coming together.
Tackling ‘story’ or any one factor on its own may be enough to allow you to get back on track, and regain good health. But, often, we need to address other factors and use other treatments as well.
Coping with illness involves coming to terms with things which can and things which cannot be changed. Some things definitely cannot be changed—for example, our genes, our ethnicity, our gender, our culture, and of course our parents.
Our basic personality type is something we have to learn to live with. We need to maximize our strengths, and accept our weaknesses. The personality issues can be a stumbling block. Many people find the Myers Briggs Personality Type Test, or the Enneagram program very useful in this regard. It is very encouraging to discover that all people, no matter how “together” they seem to be, have to come to terms with the pluses and the minuses of their own personality types. Sharing stories in a group of people of your personality type can be an encouraging, stimulating, funny, and often very heartening experience.
It is possible to change some of the physical aspects of our illnesses. Drug treatments, surgery, organ replacement, and gene therapies all reflect this approach to disease. Illness Explorer is one small attempt to participate in the growing clamour for a broader approach to healing.
Some things can be changed, even if with difficulty. Our personal circumstances are full of possibilities for change, though some will be far more challenging than others. Our choice of partner and friends, our diet, our exercise habits, the work/leisure balance we keep, our spirituality--these are all vitally important aspects of our daily lives which respond to careful attention. There are many books, programs and courses available which can help us focus on changes in the particular areas we feel need attention.
Quite frequently, if people learn to understand themselves better, and work through their feelings to a reasonable resolution and acceptance, they will then organize their relationships and lives in a more balanced and healthy way. This includes avoiding self-abusive habits and patterns of behavior, and ensuring their eating and exercise habits are reasonable. They develop a spirituality or philosophy of life which gives them more breadth and depth, and which can accommodate the ups and downs of life without compounding the downs. Along with these changes there will often be an improvement in health. In our experience, accessing and working with ‘story’ is a major stimulus for this happening.
You have explored your feelings, recognised some of your themes, and, hopefully, created a story - your story - that helps you to make some sense of your physical symptoms.
This story is unique to you, but you will have seen from all the examples we gave you that our stories share much in common.
The work with Illness Explorer may have been easy, or it may have been difficult. For some it may have been too difficult. If so, you might benefit from some further help from a clinician who understands mind/body connections, or at least is open to them, and willing to explore with you.
You could start by asking among friends about who is a good counsellor or therapist. Maybe get a contact list of registered therapists from your local Citizens Advice facility. Check the telephone directory. Ask your doctor, especially if she/he is open-minded to these things. When you have some names, telephone the therapist, tell him/her what you have been doing, and try to decide whether you and the therapist fit well. Agree to review that after a few sessions.
Remember that all of us are engaging in a "journey" of intense human experience. The approach offered here can help reduce the expression of these feelings and themes in physical disease. Our best hope is that in working with Illness Explorer, you will have discovered some things that not only make a difference to your current symptoms, but will also help in years to come.
We trust you can maintain the courage and energy needed for your particular and unique journey, and that when needed you will be able to find people who can encourage and accompany you.