The Self-Centeredness of Sickness | Jenna Wright Bell


Jenna Wright Bell is an Integrative Health Coach with a strong background in medicine and wellness. She offers chronic illness and optimal wellness support. Her company is called Basically Well. She can be found dispensing great advice on her website as well as social media.


My greatest moments of self-centeredness arrived within my experience of Lyme Disease. An illness, so traumatic in its onset, that I could barely see, feel and hear anything outside of one foot from my self.  A 24/7 roller coaster ride through hell with one foot, dragging, digging my grave, into which, I fought continually to avoid falling. Everyday lives went on around me while a bombastic war was occurring within me. Doctors and family would speak and my mind would inaccurately translate their foreign language, me responding, at times, with my backwards nonsensical English, while my mind shouted “Shut up! Just Please Shut Up!!! Can’t you see the hell I’m in?! Do something! Help me! I AM DYING, DAMMIT !!!”

Daily waves of Death’s grip, tugging, pulling and me breathing through, resisting, while someone talked about their kids grades, college, a new recipe, telling me “you’ll feel better after a shower and some makeup”…..all received in my mind as benign bullshit.

And I’d scream, again, inside my head “I can’t tolerate your words…you really don’t get it…can’t you see! Why can’t you see the terror in my eyes and that I, my whole being, body/mind/soul, is in shock. I’m a zombie with a palpitating, racing heart and brain swelling out of its skeletal container!! What the hell is wrong with you people!!! NO! Going for a walk and socializing won’t help me…not when I don’t have the mitochondrial energy to put my hands above my head and wash my hair, not when I can’t feel all of my legs and they won’t stop shaking! Not when I’m so contracted in a pained body that feels like it’s going to simultaneously implode and explode. Not when my arms and legs are crossed, hugging myself, clinging as tightly as possible to life. Don’t you get that I can’t walk in the fetal position!”

My mind would rant at them and what would come out of my mouth in response, with as much energy as I could conjure, in a forced exhausted loud whisper was a simple “Okay”. And, I saw that there was no way they could begin to sympathize, much less empathize with my experience, because, this was an epidemic too new, too unbelievably bizarre in all of its symptoms and too traumatic, too ugly, to scary for any of them to understand. An epidemic that touches the whole of the being and may likely be named something entirely different as time and science move along. The closest anyone in my life ever came to “getting it” was when my doctor said that my body was so toxic that it was as if I were receiving 3 high dose chemo treatments per week and that adrenaline was the only thing driving my body.

(A Whole Foods cashier once asked if I was fighting cancer. “Yes” almost came out of my mouth in a manipulative selfish attempt to see empathy in her eyes and maybe get a little human touch with a pat on my hand, because, I knew that people were kind to cancer patients…I wanted some of that kindness)

But, that doctor’s description was only a small glimpse of the myriad hells I was experiencing. So many organ systems were involved and all were crashing, tick transmitted viruses that are much like malaria were attacking my body, symptoms of encephalitis were a constant, my liver wasn’t filtering, causing all of my body to be bathed in toxins as if I had been poisoned, the scent of chemicals and mold were more than my body could process, light was my enemy and too painful for my eyes to take in, one colitis attack after another and my nights were filled with heart pounding night terrors that would begin the moment I drifted into a fake sleep, sweating, shaking, jerking…anything but sleeping, shoulders frozen and tendons torturously tightened…and many more symptoms too lengthy and ugly to continue describing.

At some point in my months long space and time blurring surreal experience, in the more critical stages of this illness, I began to see inward. I allowed myself to float in this Dali and Kafkaesque experience as it arrived in waves. I flowed with it, into myself. Not in self-centered pain, not in the physical, but truly into myself, my being, my soul the “I Am” of me.

There, I found compassion for those who couldn’t “get it”, who couldn’t see my suffering, either because their soul’s eyes had not matured enough or because I had become so adept in my lifetime behavioral training at pretending all was well, with a smile on my face, my lipstick on and the collective memorized, robotic word “Finethankyouandhowareyou?” rolling over my forced smiling lips.

I forgave them because I loved them. And because I loved them, I would not want them to empathetically understand as that would mean they would have to join me in my hells. Who would want someone they love to experience any kind of hell?

So, in the “I Am” of me, I found me. I held me, rocked me, hugged me, and loved me….for the first time in my life. I brushed the hair from my eyes and promised to take care of me, and I assured me that no matter the outcome, all would be okay. Forgiveness, answers, a broadened view beyond my one foot of vision from selfishness that was born in my pain, appeared. I forgave them all.

And Love stayed. In my life before Lyme, it had frequently left, sometimes abruptly, but this time, Love stayed because it came from an eternal source within me. I didn’t have to jump through hoops to get it and then bust my ass to keep it happy and hope it remained.

All I had to do was open the door into I AM. Loving me was the key that unlocked it all…healing, peace, confidence, contentment and selflessness….a Treasure Chest of Love’s gifts.

When I recognized that my experience with Lyme Disease, while a traumatically consuming epidemic that will prove to have significant implications in the medical, social and spiritual history of mankind, was in fact, NOT the biggest event in the history of the universe, I became able to put it into purposeful perspective.

My end conclusion was that it was merely an event. A powerful event, a surreal and very painful event, but, nonetheless, factually and simply, an event. I saw that in the end, it was the growing and learning and becoming within the event that would prove to be a small part of the largest impact on the history of mankind, if….if, I chose to allow my purpose, my contribution within this impact.

Ultimately, it came down to the simple lesson, for me, to choose to Be Love in all things, surrendering and allowing all purposes their unfolding.

That chapter of my life ended with a belief in my worth, with love for myself, with an understanding that all of my choices in every thought, breath and movement rippled beyond myself and with the awareness that it all had very little to do with only me.