The Illness That Just Wouldn’t Give Up (And Neither Did I)

The Illness That Just Wouldn’t Give Up (And Neither Did I) - Chiara Irvine

It’s still raw and real; and I’m still living it.

In 2013, my business and work were beginning to gain momentum. My online courses were selling out and, with this new demand I pushed myself further, worked longer harder hours, spent more time creating and pouring all of my energy into my business, and further away from my own life around me.

I knew that I didn’t want to risk burning out, so I employed an amazing assistant. I hoped it would take the pressure off, but it only fuelled it further.

I felt myself slipping into a hole, a void of unhappiness—disempowered, disconnected, and lost.

I couldn’t understand how I was falling out of love with what I offering. The feedback, insights, release, and empowering experiences that people were receiving from my work was beautiful, yet here I was in this place of helplessness.

Deep within me, I was calling out for an acceptable excuse to stop it all, to just be still, rest, think, and breathe.

My heart was heavy, overwhelmed, and unsure on how to keep coming up with ideas, offerings, and mentoring for everyone I was working with.

I was ignoring the very principles I was teaching.

In November of 2013, from an amazingly well orchestrated event created by myself and the universe, it all came to a halt.

I was gardening on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, enjoying some free time being outdoors.

I pulled up some plants and, in doing so; a small slug flew up and into my eye. Within that crazy and seemingly insignificant moment, my life changed.

The slug got stuck in my eye. After several frantic minutes, I freed it.

It hurt, but I was fine, and we had a laugh about how “only I would get a slug stuck in my eye.”

The following morning, I had no vision in my eye, and my doctor told me to go straight to the hospital.

They cleaned and checked my eye. It was fine—no damage.

Within a day, my eye healed, but I became progressively unwell.

Two days after the event, I was disorientated with a high fever. In the midst of checking in with the doctor, I collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

My heart rate was extremely high; I had an immense pain and pressure in my head, a stiff neck and an escalating fever. All signs pointed to meningitis.

Through a number of tests and scans it was discovered I had some brain swelling from the virus traveling into my brain.

Even after the tests showed I was clear of the infection, I didn’t get better.

I sat in stillness and spoke with my body. I asked it if it was all over. That small, still voice from within me answered, “Not yet, there is more to come.”

I could feel fear building within me, dwelling in the darkness.

I lost my compass, my bearing. I shuffled around each day, disconnected and slowly getting worse. I gained new symptoms and pain spread into all of my body. Neurological problems that were not there before appeared.

Again, I had more tests. Again, they found nothing.

Instead of turning to the tools I used to assist others in moving through fear and anxiety, I turned into the arms of my own fear. I was terrified that my body would never get better; that this incomprehensible disease was consuming the person I loved being.

My husband one day said, “I never thought I would see you age before my very eyes at 36. It’s like you are wasting away.” His honesty was what gave me enough strength to get out of my chair. I wanted to be strong for him.

The turnaround came about five months later when all the systems in my body started to decline.

I was losing grip. It was like there was a lesson I wasn’t learning, a wisdom I wasn’t hearing, because it was getting lost underneath the din of my own self-pity and fear.

It was time to stop, to breathe.

Finally, I understood the wisdom of the experience. This is what I had been asking for: time to stop and think.

I took a deep breath. I surrendered. I began to accept everything I was experiencing. It was, after all, my experience. On some level, I have chosen this. This was happening to me for a reason.

I realized within that moment that I was happier being chronically ill than I had been in a long time. In some strange and incomprehensible way, being in constant pain and suffering was bringing me greater joy than walking on my so-called authentic path.

That was when I knew it had to stop. I had to allow myself to rediscover myself. I had to go back to the most important question about myself.


Why am I here?

What has this experience got to do with my purpose?

Finally, I was ready to find the answers and to hear the truth about what was going on.

Above all, I was ready to forgive myself and my body.

In forgiving myself for all my heavy thoughts, as well as the emotional and physical manifestations of these thoughts within my body, I finally understood.

It is okay to be vulnerable, sad, lost, and angry or out of control. Our greatness as humans lies in being open to these experiences. Our power lies in recognising them, accepting them, and forgiving them.

Now, if I don’t slow down, this lesson comes back to me in the form of pain and fatigue. The lesson that keeps returning to me is that it’s okay. It’s okay to say I need to stop, to ask for support when I need it, to reach out and express my fears and worries to those I love.

It’s okay to spend a moment at the end of each day and quietly forgive myself for any thoughts, actions, or emotions that I placed on myself that did not bring me joy.

It’s okay to let them go and to enjoy the peace and lightness that comes from forgiveness.

Seven months later, as I recover each day, I am choosing to see these insights as my guiding force. I know that my purpose is to reach out and support others who also have been diagnosed with similar chronic illness and to let them know that they too can heal themselves and move forward.

They too have a choice.

I believe we are each our own wisest teachers on our quest for knowledge, growth, and understanding; and as I sit here embracing the pain in my body, I am grateful for it all.

I am living my “Why” more than I have ever been.

This experience has taught me gentleness, compassion, connection, and vulnerability.

My life has changed, yes, but I don’t see my chronic illness as a life sentence. It is just a new path of discovery.

I have discovered a deeper understanding of my clients, by truly experiencing their pain. I have discovered the support of open-minded, caring people. I have discovered a desire to use this new chapter of my life to create a supportive space for others who struggle with similar conditions. I have discovered tools and exercises that I can share with others who need them.

I thank that little slug each day for reminding me to “see” the truth, to tread slowly, and to honour my presence within each and every moment.

Chronic illness is my new companion to change and transformation. It is my ally to peace.

I have no regrets.

Instead, I choose to fulfil my dream each day—to live compassionately, laugh often, and live as fully as I can.

This is not only my dream, but the dream I wish for everyone.

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Chiara Irvine

Chiara Irvine is a coach; mentoring and supporting clients with chronic illness or disorders to live a positive life beyond their pain and suffering. She is a writer, speaker and meditation teacher and is the founder of Awakened Living Community. Find her at her website.

1 Response

  1. What a profound story, Chiara. I could feel your resistance as well as your surrender throughout this process. Your courage is exemplary to me, so I can only imagine what an amazing role model you are for people struggling with chronic illness. You turn struggle into learning – and that is the mark of a true leader! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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