Curing versus Healing

I’ve struggled with the opposing need to believe that I will overcome this and to accept where I am and what I have. Much of the time recently I’ve found that I can at best achieve only one — accept where I am. This essay is about how I’ve come to believe I can overcome as well.

I believe that chronic illness is an opportunity for growth. I’ve written before about my experiences with RSI. What I don’t think I mentioned is that I now look back on that experience without regret. I integrated it into my life, allowed it to teach me, and let it become part of me. Some of the things I learned along the way included how to manage my time extremely well (which has payed off in spades as a faculty member and mom) and how to treat my body better (in terms of sleep, exercise and food). I also learned to accept my limitations — I still remember the moment when a stranger first labeled me disabled. As my visceral “no!” slowly turned into a yes, I learned about what disability really means and even began to incorporate disability issues into my teaching and research. I also found a job in which I would not constantly be struggling with my limitations. I am a healthier, happier, and more successful person in part because of my RSI. In fact, I stopped feeling sorry for myself even before I knew if a cure would be possible.

Recently I’d been thinking about that experience and asking what Lyme has to teach me. For example, it taught me how to be a better parent by sharing with my children the ability to be joyous even when we cannot do everything we hope to do. But I had not yet succeeded in achieving faith in my ability to overcome lyme and I began to wonder if perhaps I should view this as an opportunity to learn something about faith.

It seems to me that religion and faith often go hand in hand, so I decided to sit down with a rabbi and ask her about faith and illness. I’ve been processing our conversation and the reading materials she gave me since then … and I think I’ve finally found what I need to work on. I’ve been failing to believe in the wrong thing — the unknowable possibility of a cure. What I succeeded in believing in with the RSI and need to focus on now is my ability to heal.

What is the difference between healing and a cure? Healing involves the spirit while a cure is entirely physical. A cure assumes a single, correct answer. Healing is multi-faceted. Healing also suggests a path toward increased wellness. It means letting go of anger and finding hope. It means asking what I can do to make my own journey easier and feeling the power of my own ability to take action. It means accepting what I cannot control, an instinct that I have until now felt was in opposition to hope. But it removes the conflict. They need not oppose eachother but can work together towards achieving increasing quality of life.

7 thoughts on “Curing versus Healing

  1. This is absolutely beautifully said. Acceptance/healing vs. cure/ the search to fix things and be well ~ It is a struggle I think many of us with chronic illnesses deal with. I really like what you said about “asking what I can do to make my own journey easier and feeling the power….accepting what I cannot control….”so true and so wise.
    Thank you for sharing this..for myself, I needed to hear this today.

  2. Jen, thanks for sharing this with me. I appreciate, very much, what you did with that little kernel of suggestion that we talked about. I will keep reading this–thank you.


  3. I think you make a very good distinction between what you call healing and curing. I think what you are saying boils down to “one is a state and the other is a process”. As we often say with that pretty cliche saying. “Sometimes its the journey that matters and not necessary the destination”.

  4. I think you’re right but healing isn’t just a process — it includes a different goal state (one defined not physically but by whether I am happy and have succeeded in balancing my own needs against those of things I love like my job and family). Sort of the difference between thinking that success in academia is about publishing lots of papers when it’s really about mentoring/teaching students how to be successful and about finding impactful problems, asking the right questions, answering them, and explaining your answers effectively.

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