|How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregiver is about living skillfully with the challenges of any chronic illness or condition. I wrote it for sufferers and for their caregivers (the latter includes people involved in hospice, chaplaincy, and elder care; for those interested in chronic illnesses and conditions (health professionals, family and friends); and for people interested in Buddhism (illness can function as a metaphor for suffering which, along with the cessation of suffering, is at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching).
Chronic illnesses or conditions – such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes (three among dozens) – while not immediately life-threatening, are life-disrupting and stressful. The book is unique in that each chapter contains easy-to-learn tools and practices to help the chronically ill and their caregivers live skillfully, maintain equanimity, and even find joy despite the profound changes in their lives. A recurring theme in the book is that, although one’s body may be sick, one’s mind can be at peace.
Some of the practices presented are traditionally Buddhist. Others I devised after becoming ill. Two are from the work of Byron Katie. Each practice is illustrated with examples from my own experience, so the book is also highly personal.
The practices are intended to help with the following types of challenges:
- Suffering due to the relentlessness of physical symptoms;
- Blaming oneself for being sick;
- Cursory or dismissive treatment by doctors and medical professionals;
- The inability to visit with friends, participate in family gatherings, and take part in other social events;
- Feeling ignored by family or friends;
- Suffering due to uncertainty about the future;
- Coping with the disappointment of failed treatments;
- Caretaker burnout.
At the end of the book is a handy reference guide, summarizing the specific tools and practices that can help with each of the above challenges.