Question for Bernie:
I truly believe people can change the health of their bodies with their minds. I got colon cancer in 2003 when I had a nervous breakdown and felt like a total failure at life. I went on disability and my sister convinced me to move in with my mother. Suddenly I found myself trying to adjust to life without a job for an identity and having a part time job that I thought way beneath me. My mother spoke often in our presence that she never wanted any of her five children. She said these demeaning things to us constantly. I recognized that she was a very depressed person who refused to change her situation. It was HORRIBLE.
I was reeling in a lifetime of depression of my own, having been raised by my mother to hate myself. My mother divorced my father and moved away from Missouri, to Minnesota, leaving him behind with just two weeks’ notice. He was really nuts. And by the time my mom left him, she was totally nuts too.
As she raised us, my mother held me up as being “perfect” to the other kids, making them hate me. They tortured me as we grew up. At night my mother put me in the role of her missing spouse to get advice about her life, work, and how to handle the rest of the kids. As I kept striving harder and harder to be perfect for her, she would tell me all the things that were wrong with me.
The result of this dysfunctional family life, I came out of that environment feeling I could not trust anyone and that everyone was out to make fun of me if I dared to be my true self. I felt I could never show my feelings because of getting hurt, and I tried to avoid all conflict. My self-hatred comes from feeling worthless, pointless, stupid, ugly, that anything I liked was dumb, the way I dressed never good enough, my hair ugly, my size wrong, etc., etc., etc. I would walk around feeling that I wanted to die because I had no idea how to live. I was always afraid of EVERYTHING.
I have been seeing therapists since I was in my twenties, but none could ever help me find a way to stop the fear. I even asked them to just help me follow through with goals, but that wasn’t successful either. I have read at least 50 books trying to get help over the years. At times I’d feel that I had found the solution, practice what the book said, and then get terrified and fall back to my fears.
When the cancer came back the last time in 2009, I decided it was time to die. I had tried every therapist I could find to help me with the fear and nobody could. I read every book I could, but I couldn’t do it alone. My family was still all nuts. I was ready to die. I had stopped eating and lost 80 pounds in several months. My mom figured out what I was doing and said that she wouldn’t live with someone who was wasting away to die.
Still striving to make my mother happy, I went to an eating disorders program, but secretly I was still planning to die. Since no one had helped before, I had no expectation that this would this be any different. But they told me my mom wouldn’t let me leave the house and I HAD to start having a life of my own. I had to find things to do that I found fun. Because of my fear of people, I’ve been friendless except for one close friend I had for years, but when I was given 6 – 8 months to live in 2005, she quit talking to me. THAT WAS HARD.
But I told my mother what they said I had to do, and started going out to take photos of flowers and nature, telling her how long I’d be gone. Then the cancer came back and the eating disorders group kicked me out of the program telling me that the cancer should be my priority….but they were wrong, they were, and I didn’t see it. My mother died on January 1, 2010. I grieved terribly for a year. I tried to find a support group, but in my area all of them seemed to be women around the average age of 70 who had lost their husbands.
The cancer has been slowly progressing over the last five years and I haven’t been able to decide if I want to live or die. I have been going in spurts, with no real support to live and still ruled by all my fears.
In the last week after re-reading your first book (I’m 3/4 of the way through), I FINALLY understood that my life is MY LIFE, and I really do have things I like, and it’s fine to not do things I don’t like. Your book is teaching me that I DO MATTER as much as anybody else—and that I do feel things. The numbness I’ve felt all my life is gone. The wounds of the past are gone. I told my sister that I will no longer listen to all the woes in her life. I will only listen to positive things or I will block my phone from her calls. She is a narcissist, and is nuts, and is always in debt. Her life is not mine and she is not my responsibility. I will only deal in positive things I won’t be drained anymore.
For the last two weeks I have been keeping my apartment picked up, and it feels WONDERFUL to have a clean and tidy home for the first time in my life. Now that the serious chemo is gone, my mouth can handle real food again. I am cooking chili, lasagna, egg dishes, etc. I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years, and I’m finally on a nutritious, healthy diet. But I don’t know what to do for fun.
I know a couple of people from church, one of whom I see on Thursdays. She is a retired therapist in her 70s, and we really just do “pep” talks. But she feels I will die. I feel with my visualizations and focusing on living I have a real shot at living.
I want to get off disability and find a better job, but I can’t do that until the cancer is gone. I don’t know what to do now with minimal funds. I see my part time job as something that I feel grateful for, that has kept me through many hospitalizations. A gift until the cancer is gone.
What more can I do on a physical level to help myself? In 2005, when I was given 6-8 months to live, I got rid of the cancer doing visualizations. But this time I was so far gone and ready to die, and I felt so overwhelmed that the cancer had recurred with hundreds of tumors in my lungs and some in my abdomen, that I felt it was more than my visualizations could handle.
Now I’ve ordered your meditation tape and your book of other people’s stories to help me figure out what more I can do to fix my life. I am visualizing all day long—when I drive, when I’m looking in the bathroom mirror, just all the time—that the cancer in my lungs and abdomen is being quickly being eaten away by the T-cells, going from black to pink.
But what to do to be around people now, really the first time in my life? Do you have any ideas for that, too?
And what do you think the meaning is for location of the cancer in my body? I think it is in the lungs because I’ve been terrified to speak at all for my entire life. I think I have colon cancer because I’ve been holding in all the emotional damage of my childhood, looking throughout my life for a way to get rid of it. My nervous breakdown seemed to rob me of any dreams, or of a “real job” to feel proud of that could balance the self-hatred I felt.
Anyway….ANY advice you can give me, I will GREATLY appreciate.
You were hypnotized in a negative way by your childhood. Now is the time, as I think you have finally discovered, to come back to full consciousness and totally abandon the past.
You are finally beginning to know what is—and how vital it is—to love yourself and stop worrying about what others think of you. Yes, your mother raised you to believe that her happiness was all you should ever focus on, but that was so terribly wrong. NO parent should ever put that burden on a child. Throw that burden off your back once and for all!
You are the most important person in your life! Once message I want everyone to get is that it is not selfish to first love yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, any love you wish to give to another isn’t genuine. To love yourself, you must dig down deep within and find that genuine YOU, learn to love that person, and then—and only then—can you offer real love of any kind to another person. Since I believe we are all here for only one purpose—to love—you can understand why I emphasize loving yourself first so much.
Good parenting is about helping your children from the day of their birth to learn to love themselves. Sadly, there is a lot of bad parenting out there, usually done by people who become parents without ever learning to love themselves. Children are not here for the purpose of filling a hole that is left in the hearts of their parents who never found their genuine selves before becoming parents.
If you can’t find an empowering support group of people like yourself, start one. There are many, many adult children who had similar parenting experiences as you did. Just like you, they are left with deeper grief than expected when a parent dies because it is colored with the guilt they learned to feel, very unfairly, as they grew up.
If you have some of your baby or childhood pictures, get them out and put them up around your apartment. Each time you see that little girl, say “I love you, beautiful little one!” and create the sense of worth and self-esteem that you never got from your mother.
I also always recommend that we all let our hearts make up our minds, so do that and do what makes YOU happy! When you do, you will find friends. Don’t look for friends—just let them come into your life. They will—believe me—if you project the confident and loving light that comes from learning to love yourself and your life.
Look for ways to choose and love life, and then the coincidences and miracles happen.