Two Conversations on Illness: Shame and Truth

Part 1 – Conversation with Shame

Shame and Person sit back to back. Person starts looking around.

Shame:                     Yeah, I’m right here.  I’m pretty much always here.

Person:                     I know you’re here. Don’t be so smug.

Shame:                     Of all the things that can mess up your life, I’m at the top of the heap. Anger can raise your blood pressure. Fear can paralyze you. Stress can exhaust you, but me? Shame? I can do all that and a whole lot more.

Person:                     I turn my back on you because I don’t like the way you make me feel. You make my stomach hurt just thinking about all that stuff that happened to me a long time ago. Luckily, I got over it.

Shame:                     Did you? Did you really? Do you still have those stomache aches?

Person:                     Well yes, but that has nothing to do with what you are talking about.

Shame:                     All your aches and pain have to do with me. Shame creeps into everything. Not letting you or your body be free.

Person:                     How do I get rid of you?

Shame:                     Its very very hard.  I don’t think you can handle it.

Person:                     How hard can it be? I want to. I want to get you out of my life.

Shame:                     It’s hard. I’m telling you.

Person:                     But, I’m ready.  I have to get rid of you.

Shame:                     Well, I don’t usually do this but since you insist…

If you want to get rid of shame, you have to do two things.  One: Face me. Two: “You have to Let Go of the power your memories have over you. ”

The Reading

Some Points of My Philosophy

Louise Hay

We are each responsible for all of our experiences.

Every thought we think is creating our future.

The point of power is always in the present moment.
Everyone suffers from self-hatred and guilt.

The bottom line for everyone is,

“I’m not good enough.”

It’s only a thought and a thought can be changed.

We create every so-called illness in our body.

Resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns.

Releasing resentment will dissolve cancer.

We must release the past and forgive everyone.
We must be willing to begin to learn to love ourselves.

Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the key to positive changes.

When we really love ourselves, everything in our life works.

Part 2 – Conversation with Truth

Conversation with Truth

(followed by The Benediction)

Truth and Person sit back to back. Person looks at the ground

(1 minute 10 seconds)

Truth:                           Why have you turned your back on me?

Person:                        Its hard to face you sometimes.

Truth:                           I’ve lightened up. I wanna play a little game with you. Let’s have some fun….Repeat after me…

Person:                        Wait! I’m scared of you. The truth changes things. Makes everything so serious and stark.

Truth:                           Lets let bygones be bygones. Now, Repeat After me… Say “I don’t wanna”

Person:                        What’s that mean?

Truth:                           Just say it.

Person:                        I don’t wanna. What’s it even mean?

Truth:                           Literally, it means: I don’t want to. Doesn’t it feel good just slipping out of your mouth?

Person:                        I hardly ever say that. I try to always do what people ask me to do.

Truth:                           Here’s another one. Say “NO”.

Person:                        What? I can’t say that.

Truth:                           What if I said the word “NO” could save your life.

Person:                        How so?

Truth:                           It’s a tiny word that can do wonder’s for you. It will give your power back. Saying yes to everything no matter how you really feel sucks the power right out of you. Clogs up your system…Gives you aches and pains. Take it from me, “NO” can save your life.

Person:                        I don’t wanna tell the truth all the time! It hurts people’s feelings and then they won’t like me.

Truth:                           If you lie to them, then they really won’t like you…and you will never like yourself.

BENEDICTION

Kim:

“Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;… and not today’s pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man.” James H. West

Laurie:

“In minds crammed with thoughts, organs clogged with toxins, and bodies stiffened with neglect, there is just no space for anything else.”
Alison Rose Levy, “An Ancient Cure for Modern Life,” Yoga Journal, Jan/Feb 2002

Kim:

“The fear of life is the favorite disease of the twentieth century.” William Lyon Phelps

Laurie:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

TOGETHER

“Go In Peace and Wellness”


Homily by Laurie Renfro

Before I begin I want to share that today’s homilies will include honest, personal sharing of experiences of chronic autoimmune illness, with a focus on family systems as one of the factors. As our sharing may trigger, in some, difficult feelings or memories, please know here at UUCA we have ministers and lay ministers within the congregation who are available to anyone finding themselves in need of a listening heart.

When I was nine years old I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus and became something of a medical celebrity. Now before I lead you down the wrong path / and have you churning visions of me on a medical red carpet, I should clarify myself. My actual celebrity was more like that of Chang The Chinese Giant, Susi The Elephant Girl and other circus sideshow performers who were considered freaks. Similar to those mid-19th century spectacles, crowds of people – mainly doctors – would peek their heeds into my exam rooms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the youngest Lupus patient they had ever heard of. Memorized by the inflamed rash that stretched across my nose and checks in the shape of a butterfly, they could hardly believe such a young child could fall prey to the autoimmune disease that is sometimes called the Red Wolf and sometimes called the Great Pretender. You see, according to the Lupus Foundation of America, most people who develop Lupus are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 44. Now these numbers are from a very recent study. Back in 1973 it was thought that the typical Lupus patient was female,  likely to be of, / or have ancestors from, a pigmented racial background and of childbearing age – that would mean age 17-33. In my case, two out of three being true was not significant. What was most interesting about my case was my extremely young age,  which defied just about every theory doctor’s had about Lupus and demanded new consideration of cause, treatment and cure.

As you’ve gathered, Kim and I come to you today to talk about the mind-body, spirit-flesh connection; how our thoughts, emotions and experiences can inhabit our bodies, even to sickness and death. For many of us this idea already seems reasonable and may even feel intuitive. We can easily connect the stress of our lives to physiological problems such as migraine headaches, high blood pressure and insomnia. For our children, though – all the kids like little nine year old me – accepting stress as a plausible cause of illness is not as easy. They are our babies, pure and innocent. Seemingly without nearly enough life under their belts to have any real problems, can the mind-body, spirit-flesh connection actually be relevant in their young lives? Now, I’m going to ask you to hold this question in your minds as I tell you some not-so-nice pieces of my own personal story. OK? And remember, the question is, seemingly without any real problems of their own, how does the mind-body, spirit-flesh connection affect the lives of children? Got it? Great. Here goes:

First, let me tell you that I was conceived in an asylum. Committed against her will by her Jewish parents, my mother’s unconfirmed psychiatric diagnoses were severe enough to fuel both the fantasy of a love affair with a black married man on the mental health facility staff and the fantasy of her ability to care for a child. Literally with only delusions supporting her, my twenty-seven year old pregnant mother ran away, / first from the mental facility, then from her family and the east coast, and only stopped running when I was born in Berkeley, California. According to the Children’s Home Society who placed me with my adoptive family when I was four year’s old, I entered the Alameda County Child Services system when I was six month’s old. I really can’t remember the details of my life between six months and four years, but I can recall the feelings. I was not safe. Things were not consistent and I had no one I could trust. Like most adversity, these challenges did help me develop compensating strengths. I truly believe it’s due to my early life experiences that I have uncommon fortitude and resilience. I believe my critical thinking skills were honed early in multiple foster homes and my survival skills were rehearsed to a proficiency that has sustained me to this day. However my compensating strengths have served me, though, cannot make up for the soul sickness that besieged me when I was just a little girl. It took me decades to understand that my soul-sickness was brought on by multiple stressors delivered by adults who were supposed to be taking care of me.

While we UU’s are not overwhelmingly comfortable with Christian concepts of sin, I can’t think of a better place to apply them than in the horrendous ways we fail our children. In my case, for example, it was a sin of COmission when I was sexually assaulted as a child. Then, it was a sin of omission when child services failed to provide me with reliable caretakers. Even when I joined my wonderful adopted family, a sin of COmmission made me an object of my parent’s marital power struggle and their unintended sins of Omission left me without much needed help for my resulting soul sickness. I want to pause for a moment to say this is definitely not about parent or guardian bashing. Neither is it about blaming people for their illnesses or their children’s illnesses. From science we know there are multiple and unknown causal factors, and so very many of them not within our control. But what this is about is the very real impact that adult choices and behaviors have on the lives and health of children – and the moral obligation we have to do the things that are within our control. We cannot minimize how our choices and behaviors, whether conscious or not, affect the lives others. And when we’re talking about children, who have no other choice than to depend on us, we just can’t hang on to any crazy rationalizations that they will be OK, even as we, ourselves, are not OK. And as for me, with all that adult COmmission and Omission in my little girl life, I was definitely not OK. By the time I was nine years old, my injuries, fears and anxieties had manifest as an autoimmune disorder.

Now, I’ll admit, my personal case is extreme. The fact is most children, even those who are subjected to the incredible stress, don’t develop diagnosable autoimmune disorders… at least not during their childhood. We cannot underestimate, though, the lasting impact of stress on children and the multiple ways it can show itself.  I’m certain many of you can agree, from both personal and professional perspectives, that abandonment, violence and aggression, and substance abuse are just a few of the ways soul-sick people act out stress put upon them when they were children.

So, what are we to do? How can we protect children from our own less than OK-ness? Ours is a simple, but not always easy, responsibility to live in Truth. Truth is available to all of us for the opportunity of freedom. We can be free from debilitating feelings and experiences. We can be free from limiting thoughts and the effects of injurious memories. And most important for us as guardians of children, finding this kind of freedom means we are less likely to injure those most dependent and innocent.

Never before in time has there been such a wealth of resources for healing through Truth. I encourage you to meditate, to pray, to give yoga a try or, maybe, even some shamanistic drumming. I challenge you to make that therapy appointment, to join a covenant group or to make yourself available to serve others or the environment in some way. Whatever spiritual practice you choose, the point is to find a way to see yourself in Truth. To spiritually engage in a way that allows your defenses to fall and your heart to open to healing your own soul-sickness.

And because they always show up when we start looking honestly inside ourselves, I also encourage you to be aware of the stories you tell yourself that keep you from your Truth. Oh, the stories – telling these blaming, justifying, defending, denying and avoiding stories – this is the most common way we position ourselves to continue to be less than OK / in the company of our children who can count on only us to protect them from both soul sickness and physical illness. Whatever state you are in, you bring that state to the health of our children. Heal yourself. We have an obligation to heal ourselves. We can heal ourselves through Truth.