Is Mysterious Illness Really Wisdom Training?

Last week the NYTimes published a piece about the actress Selma Blair and her diagnosis of MS. MS is another of the mysterious illnesses into which category fall CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia. For the first while, Blair was told by doctors that her tiredness was a function of being a new mother, and barely stopped short of saying “It’s all in your mind.” Eventually, after a struggle, she was formally diagnosed and felt relief that finally, she could do something about it.

This is a typical response to mysterious illness, both from GPs and from sufferers. People, women mostly, resonated to Selma’s story.

“There are some things about M.S. that certainly remain a mystery,” said Kathy Costello, the associate vice president for health care access at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “But a significant amount more is known now, versus 20 or 30 years ago.”

What if mysterious illnesses are the catalyst for transformation?

Yeah? After how many billions spent? What did all that money and research find? Well the disease is intermittent. There is no cure. You can take steroids, which break down your organs while giving you relief. There are symptom management strategies, but no one truly knows nothing.

I have a friend who used bees to force his MS into remission. He would lie down on his stomach, his wife would place bees on his back in a cross pattern and the bees would sting him. He would howl in pain but then the MS would go into remission for a considerable period of time.

“Most people with the disease have the “relapsing-remitting” form of M.S., which means that they experience a cycle of worsening and recovery.” (Kathy Costello again). Basically, it is an immune system disorder, or a ‘who the hell knows’ disorder.

Because I grew up with a schizophrenic parent, I’ve had about six therapists in my life. There was no way I was following in her footsteps.

Let me ask a couple questions. What if all mysterious illnesses start in your mind? What if you could stop them in their tracks by bringing forward the emotions you are suppressing using said illness? What if people who did so were considered courageous, not weak? What if you became so attuned to your inner self that like an expert mechanic, you could pop the hood, tinker around, find the offending fear or rage or sorrow, let it out, fully experiencing that moment and then letting it go? Leaving yourself in recovery.

Every bout of therapy has given me access to new strengths and new solutions. But mental illness, even at the level of a cold is still considered such a liability, that people hide any manifestation of it, refusing to admit that they are the cause and that they hold the cure in their own hands.

Because I grew up with a schizophrenic parent, I’ve had about six therapists in my life. There was no way I was following in her footsteps. I moved cities five times when I was younger and always found someone new. As a result, this idea to me is not shaming or indicative of my weakness or inability to “measure up”. Every bout of therapy has given me access to new strengths and new solutions. But mental illness, even at the level of a cold is still considered such a liability, that people hide any manifestation of it, refusing to admit that they are the cause and that they hold the cure in their own hands.

Because I was acutely, daily, aware of schizophrenia I read widely and seriously, and the one theory I found that made sense, is that without schizophrenia human evolution would have been much much slower. The energy in a schizophrenic brain is so over-powering that ideas and theories and connections and then solutions, happen very very fast. This is certainly true of the schizophrenics in my family. The only problem is that their brains, driven by excitement, take the next step into madness.

What if mysterious illnesses are the catalyst for transformation?

What if mysterious illnesses hold the key to the next evolutionary step?

What if, buried in illness, is the wisdom that we, as a species, need?