It's been a while since my last Weekly Inspiration (more like Monthly Inspiration lately), in part because I have been hard at work setting up my YouTube channel! It includes videos about living with chronic illness and about books and reading. In fact, if you prefer to watch/listen, there is a video for today's post.
I've been meaning to write this post for a long time now, to share with you some of the wonderful books that have inspired me and helped me during my 19-year journey with chronic illness. (Note that the titles below link to my full-length reviews on my book blog (including samples of the audio books) if you want to read more, and at the end of each book's description, I link to both Amazon and Bookshop pages, in case you want to order one of these books).
The next three books I want to share with you are all from the same author, Toni Bernhard, but she’s a very special person, and all three books are inspiring and helpful. Toni has ME/CFS and got sick about the same time I did, so we met online and have been friends for almost 20 years now.
How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers. This one, as the name implies, is specifically for those with chronic illness, though the title is a bit misleading because it’s really bout how to be well, emotionally and mentally, when your body is sick. And, in fact, anyone dealing with challenges in their lives will find this book helpful. In it, she applies Buddhist principles to life with chronic illness and explains in simple terms how to use these principles in everyday life. For instance, one Buddhist principle is that every life contains challenges, suffering is a normal part of life, and accepting this can ease your suffering. She also covers topics like finding joy in the midst of suffering, healing the mind by living in the present moment, learning to stop destructive thoughts, and much more. She even outlines some simple practices you can use in everyday life. When I first reviewed this book, my copy was filled with dog-eared pages, tabs, and Post-It notes because there was just so much packed into it. Available from Amazon or from BookShop, where you shop online and your purchase supports independent bookstores.
How to Wake Up: A Buddhist Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow, took these concepts and applied them more broadly to any person, not just those living with chronic illness. Once again, Toni applies the tenets of Buddhism to modern life in an accessible way so that anyone can live a life more filled with peace and acceptance. She describes in detail just how to go about “waking up” to a more resilient, peaceful life. In separate chapters, she covers topics like mindfulness, kindness, compassion, and more, as well as obstacles to wellness, like dissatisfaction, anger, and worry. In this brief passage, Toni introduces the concept of judging and why it hampers a life of peace:
“Judging is an obstacle to waking up because it’s hard to engage life as an awakened being – with kindness and friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity – if we’re always adding likes and dislikes, shoulds and shouldn’ts to our bare experience.”
This book feels like having a good friend by your side, encouraging you, helping you to deal with your challenges and appreciate the joys in your life. Available from Amazon or from BookShop, where you shop online and your purchase supports independent bookstores.
How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, moves back to focusing in on people with chronic health conditions but in a more general sense. She adapted columns she wrote from her popular column in Psychology Today, “Turning Straw Into Gold.” I hardly know where to start because Toni covers so much ground in this incredible book, and there is so much useful information packed into it. Her short, easy-to-read chapters cover every aspect of life with chronic illness or pain, from the benefits of patience to the problems with complaining, from mindfulness techniques to dealing with doctors, and from appreciating what you have to guidelines for your friends and family. Toni’s warm, kind tone runs through it all, interweaving her own experiences with advice for others. Her approach is always calm and compassionate. As she herself states, “I’ve worked hard to find a measure of peace in the midst of feeling misunderstood,” and she takes that hard-won experience and helps boil it down to basic, simple steps that we can all take to improve our lives and cope better with chronic illness.
Available from Amazon or from BookShop, where you shop online and your purchase supports independent bookstores.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The author also has ME/CFS, and at the time she wrote this book, she was completely bedridden. A friend discovers a small snail on a walk in the woods and brings it to Elisabeth, setting it down in a pot of violets on her nightstand. At first, she can’t imagine what her friend was thinking or why she’d want a snail! But the snail gradually wins her over, providing a tiny slice of living nature right at her bedside, engaging her mind and, as strange as it may sound, providing companionship. She writes of the snail’s fascinating habits and compares its life with her own. Her observations of the snail, fortified with facts she learned during later research, are presented in beautiful, poetic language alongside observations of her own restricted life. It’s hard to describe, but the effect is fascinating and lyrical. Available from Amazon or from BookShop, where you shop online and your purchase supports independent bookstores.
Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness. The focus of my book is on sharing our own experiences and providing practical tips you can use to improve your own life, bit by tiny bit. It covers daily living, emotional coping, relationships, and improvements, in short, easy to read chapters so you can dip in and out of it as needed. Each chapter provides helpful advice to making every day less stressful, more joyful, and more peaceful. This page provides more information, a few reviews, and links to both paperback and all types of e-book formats.
And that’s it! These are some of the books I have found most inspirational in living with chronic illness. I hope that you find some inspiration within these pages, as well.
In the comments (here or on YouTube), please share which books have inspired YOU!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.