The Perils of Tying Your Happiness to Getting Your Way

Everyone is subject to psychological and cultural conditioning. We shouldn’t underestimate its depth and impact. Conditioning starts in early childhood. It comes from our parents and other influential people in our lives, such as teachers. It continues into adulthood with cultural messages playing a major role.

For example, we’re told over and over again that we “control our own destiny” and that “positive thinking brings positive results.” But this is a distortion of the human condition. We control much less of our lives than we think we do do. …

4 Things the Chronically Wish Others Understood

One of the difficulties of being chronically ill (which includes chronic pain) is that the people in our lives don’t understand what we’re going through. Our culture does a poor job of educating people about health challenges. Here are four things we wish others understood:

#1: When you’re chronically ill, you’re likely to look fine.

When I contracted a viral infection in 2001 and failed to recover (not unlike “Covid-19 Long Haulers” as they’re being called), I realized that I’d taken up residence in a parallel universe I hadn’t known existed: the invisible…

20 Tips From 20 Years Sick, Part 2

Last month marked 20 years since I came down with what appeared to be a routine viral infection. My symptoms are eerily similar to how some people feel months after contracting Covid-19. In my case, I’ve never recovered. You can find Tips 1–10 here. Continuing with my tips, here are numbers 11–20.

#11: Finding beauty in ordinary things can be extra-ordinary.

In Jane Austen’s Emma, she wrote this about Emma as she looked out her window at the village street below: “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing…

20 Tips from 20 Years Sick, Part 1

Ten years ago, I wrote “10 Tips from 10 Years Sick.” I assumed that, by now, I’d have recovered from the virus I contracted in 2001. Now I’m reading about Covid “Long Haulers” who have many of the symptoms I’ve struggled with for 20 years, from physical pain to terrible fatigue to brain fog. My heart goes out to them.

A lot has happened to me since 2001, but there’s been one constant: chronic illness, which includes chronic pain. So, it’s time for “20 Tips from 20 Years Sick.” I’m dividing this…

5 Reasons Why Chronic Pain and Illness Are Such an Energy Drain

I’ve often said that being chronically ill can feel like a full-time job. This is partly because of how exhausting it is to manage it. Here are five reasons why chronic illness is such an energy drain.

#1: We use up energy continually having to weigh the pros and cons of each activity.

The chronically ill spend a good part of most days contemplating this kind of thing: “If I do this, then I can’t do that.” “If I do that then I can’t do this.” Try repeating…

5 Seldom Recognized Consequences of Living with Chronic Pain

It’s been a hard few months for me. In addition to restrictions necessitated by the pandemic (I’m doing everything to keep myself and those around me safe), I’m experiencing a intensification of chronic pain, partly due to my ongoing chronic illness (ME/CFS) and partly due to a bad flare in osteoarthritis.

This has led me to become acutely aware of seldom-recognized consequences that accompany chronic pain. …

3 Ways to Cope with Isolation in this Unique Holiday Season

The end of 2020 is shaping up to be a difficult one for many of us, even though we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines beginning to be distributed. Still, these next few weeks, many of us will be facing isolation and loneliness due to the need to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I thought I’d offer three tools to help alleviate the emotional pain of being isolated from others at Hanukkah or Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate). …

Creating a Fulfilling Life for Your Chronically Ill Child

I’m delighted to share this guest post by Wendy Kahn. She is the mother of a chronically ill teenager. Her son’s multiple conditions make him a bit of a “medical mystery.” Dealing with this for many years, Wendy has learned creative ways to deal with daily life, solve problems, and create a little normalcy — while never giving up hope. She shares her experiences and thoughts at Here is her piece:

When children feel healthy, there are so many activities and events they can plan or attend. However, if they…

6 Ways to Handle the Stigma of Chronic Pain and Illness

(Preliminary note: I’ll be using the phrase chronic illness in this piece; it includes chronic pain.)

Let me start with the dictionary definition of stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Those are strong words. Why would chronic illness be a mark of disgrace? Three reasons come to mind. First, this culture does a poor job of educating people about chronic illness. It’s seen as an aberration instead of what it is: a natural aspect of the human condition. …

What to Do When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn — As It Just Has

I’ll start with this quotation from spiritual teacher Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

We’re in the midst of a change in our lives that’s so profound, none of us could have imagined it a year ago. So, yes, life isn’t going our way. But when you think about your life, have your plans ever worked out exactly as you’d hoped without unexpected changes or complications? …

Toni Bernhard

Toni Bernhard is the author of “How to Be Sick,” “How to Wake Up,” and “How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness.”

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