Book Review: How to be Sick

Book Review: How to be SickI was diagnosed with Celiac Disease three and a half years ago and I can honestly say I am just accepting it. It took me a good three years to learn how to live with this disease and how modify my life in order to live a life of joy and contentment.

 In my opinion, Celiac is different from other illnesses/conditions because it not only affects our health, but every aspect of life (going on vacations, going out with friends, grocery shopping, etc). I tried to find different online resources, books, quotes, etc that would help me get the rough patch in the beginning. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a nerd and could be a lifelong student… with that being said… I think it’s safe to say I read every book out there regarding Celiac, chronic illness, happiness, life, etc. The one book that made everything click and suddenly made me look at life differently was “How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers” by Toni Bernhard.

First off, let me say I am not a Buddhist. In no way did I feel this was a religious book, but more of a philosophical one with great metaphors and analogies about life. Also, I find this title to be a little misleading. How to be Sick? Umm… I don’t need to know how to be sick… I live it! It’s more about how to find peace and live a purposeful life while being sick. In my opinion you DO NOT need to be sick or know someone that’s sick to find this book extremely powerful and beneficial to life. I would say this book is for anyone that has experienced things being other than the way they hoped for; in any aspect of life.

Toni Bernhard shares her story of being a successful professor to suddenly becoming chronically ill and having to give everything up that she thought created her happiness. She provides great insight and practices that allow you to realize you must accept things as they come and find the beauty in everything; not grasping on to what you thought life should be.

A part of the book that really spoke to me is what she calls her “weather practice”. Here she states: “Here it is again, life and the weather. Just wind, man, blowing all over the place. I remind myself that the wind that’s blowing the bitterest cold at me may be setting the stage for something joyful to follow.”  She talks about how our health (or life in general for that matter) is like a weather pattern. Some days we have great weather, and other days we have bad weather. Just remember bad weather never lasts forever. I really found this to be a powerful analogy and remind myself this often. This also makes me think of doctors like weathermen. We often look at weathermen for all the answers regarding weather and get upset when they get it wrong. Same goes for doctors. They do their best to tell us what’s going on and what to expect for the future, but it’s not guaranteed… just like weathermen.

I highly recommend this book (even if you’re not sick!). It has changed my thinking in life and I find it to be continuously helpful as I face bumps in the road in all aspects of life. You can purchase it here.

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