• Clare Gardner Nieto

My Healing Journey / A Year of Debilitating Illness

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

This year has been filled deep with fear, physical pain and mental/emotional distress. It has also been one of the most amazing catalysts for change.

I’ve been really sick for a little under a year now.

It started getting bad back in October of last year. By January I was incapacitated most days. I was in the hospital 7 times from March through mid-July. In April, I officially announced a health sabbatical from work although I’d effectively stopped seeing clients by then anyway. Over the last 5 months, I’ve been unable to do much of anything except work on my own health.


My medical journey in brief: gallstones > stones caught in common bile duct > stones removed, stent placed in pancreatic duct > removed gallbladder > pancreatitis > lots more pancreatitis > more stents placed > continued pancreatitis. It’s all jumbled up and likely connected with every other medical issue I’ve had plus various traumas that have been held in my body for far too long.


It’s very painful on a daily basis. It fluctuates but doesn’t stop. It is linked with food which makes the idea of eating unpleasant and has caused me to lose a lot of weight. Not only does eating cause pain but the act of digesting saps my energy. The pain often presents as emotional symptoms (twisting gut, tight chest, tension headache) which means I feel severely anxious or depressed when I’m actually not. I’m having to manage both intense physical and emotional pain at the same time.


It’s exhausting.


My life has been effectively placed on hold.


Not Feeling So Hot | Self Portrait in Hospital

At the beginning, I kept it relatively private, sending periodic email updates to family and select friends but keeping it off social media. I was hopeful; there were some hints at recovery. I’d send out a celebratory email and start planning to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, the uptick was invariably followed by a dip in my health. As the months went by, I stopped updating much of anyone. The cycle of hope and disappointment with a whole lot of fear wrapped up was tough enough to manage in myself. I couldn’t figure out how to share it with others.


It’s been overwhelming, scary, daunting and damaging to my self worth. Recently, I found myself getting really depressed; stagnant in my attitudes and frozen in my habits. I was giving in to despair. Thankfully, the Neverending Story taught me that’s a one-way ticket to death. And I'm not ready for that yet.


I needed to change my attitude. I needed to explore a different way to live my life. I needed to redefine what makes me feel fulfilled in a day.

What came to mind were four words: Move, Think, Grow, Share. I think of them as “The Maintenance of Worth” or “How to Stay Sane During a Long Illness”. I’ll go over them in detail in another blog. For the time being, I’ll just say that I’m acting on the “Share” portion of the plan.


Because sharing and being connected are powerful forces against the loneliness and depression of long-term illness.

This experience has not been all bad. Although I would much prefer not to have gone through it, it’s been an amazing healing journey for me mentally and emotionally. I’ve had to become stronger, more resilient and creative. I’ve created and explored tools to help ease physical pain and work through emotional issues. I’ve found additional medicinal partners and modalities that have been immensely helpful to my physical, mental and emotional growth. I’ve gotten faster at seeing when I go out of balance and can more quickly and easily catch myself and move myself beyond the block. I’m enjoying things as I never have before even with continued physical pain.

One of the great sadnesses I have had to work through during this time is not being able to work as normal with clients. Working with people towards a healing goal is deeply nourishing to me. Although my energy is returning, my health is still too unstable to reliably return to work. Considered this dilemma along with how I might increase my feelings of worth, I decided to blog about my healing journey and share my new tools and findings. If I can’t work with people 1:1, I’ll reach out to many with the hope that my experience will help others through long-term issues and illnesses.


I look forward to sharing my research, insights, learnings and experiences with you. Connect with me on Facebook to get updates on new blog posts.


Grounding & Nourishing | Rose Quartz & Healing Rain

© 2017-2020 Clare Gardner Nieto