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How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

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This life-affirming, instructive, and thoroughly inspiring book is a must-read for anyone who is--or who might one day be--sick. And it can also be the perfect gift of guidance, encouragement, and uplifting inspiration to family, friends, and loved ones struggling with the many terrifying or disheartening life changes that come so close on the heels of a diagnosis of a chronic condition or even a life-threatening illness.

The author, who became ill while a university law professor in the prime of her career, tells the reader how she got sick and, to her and her partner's bewilderment, stayed that way. Toni had been a longtime meditator, going on long meditation retreats and spending many hours rigorously practicing, but soon discovered that she simply could no longer engage in those difficult and taxing forms. She had to learn ways to make "being sick" the heart of her spiritual practice and, through truly learning how to be sick, she learned how, even with many physical and energetic limitations, to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. Whether we ourselves are sick now or not, we can learn these vital arts of living well from How to Be Sick.

191 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Toni Bernhard

10 books213 followers
I'm the author of four books: "How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide"; "How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow"; "How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers" (now in a second edition); and my new book "How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion" due out in May, 2020. I am so excited about this Pocket Companion. It's both a guide for those who've read "How to Be Sick" and it's a stand-alone book! My popular blog, “Turning Straw Into Gold” is hosted on the website of Psychology Today. I can be found online at www.tonibernhard.com.

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5 stars
1,032 (47%)
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340 (15%)
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32 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews
Profile Image for Wilhelmina Jenkins.
242 reviews206 followers
September 26, 2010
I have lived with chronic illness for the past 27 years and I have read lots of books about how to life a healthy life with an unhealthy body. This book would now be my top recommendation for anyone who has a chronic illness or who cares for someone who does. Author Toni Bernhard has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (as do I) and she doesn't sugarcoat how severe an illness this is. Her life was turned upside down, but she shares in this book the spiritual practices she uses to live her life as fully as possible. The techniques she explains come from Buddhism, but they can be used by anyone. I am a mainstream Protestant - no problem! These techniques do not cure illness, but they can change the way that one thinks about illness, eliminating the thought-patterns and attitudes that stand in the way of living a spiritually healthy life even with physical limitations. There is even a guide at the end of the book that reviews and summarizes the practices she presents in the text.

Changing the way that one thinks about illness is not easy. But by emphasizing such practices as compassion, loving-kindness toward oneself and others, sympathetic joy, and equanimity, Bernhard shows us that it is possible to have a sick body but a healthy spirit. I know that I will turn to this book often and I hope that many others will also.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
July 31, 2011
I have been told you don't have to know how to meditate or even be attracted to Buddhist beliefs, to be helped by this book. Anyone with a chronic illnes or who cares for another with a chronic illness should consider this book. This is a book for those people who have an illness that is not going to go away.

I am very reluctant to read self-help books. I just get out a piece of paper and pen and think while I jot down my thoughts. A dear friend suggested this to me. She said read a bit and see what you think. That is what I did. It drew me in, and I wanted to continue. So this is what I am reading.


This book is the first that has shown me the value of Buddhist beliefs. I had always seen Buddhism as excessively negative. Unfortunately the prime focus of Buddhism is that life is filled with suffering. Buddhism also says that suffering can come to an end. Perhaps just momentarily, but there are numerous ways to end suffering if we just know how. And this book shows how. The book, in a very simple manner, explains Buddhist thoughts, but more importantly, it shows you how to achieve peace. How to stop yourself from worrying all the time. How to lessen stress. These are phenomena that everyone encounters daily. The book is aimed at those who are chronically ill, because such people simply worry so much they feel they are about to drown, but absolutely anyone will benefit from this book.

I have instinctively disliked the thought that desire was bad. Buddhism stresses that it is our desire that makes us suffer. In reality it is when we desire what we cannot achieve that desire becomes negative. Let me just say that this book explains this so much better than I can. No other book I have ever read about Buddhism has made it all so simple and clear. And it is not negative at all.

And you smile when you read the book. Buddhists make list and number everything: Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path to Freedom/Liberation and the Three Marks of Existence. The Buddhists can count..... It does make you smile!

What is best about thi book, forget all the other stuff you intellectually learn, is that it shows you how to enjoy life more. Listen to what I am saying! Is that a negative message? Indeed it is not! There is nothing negative at all about the Buddhist teachings. The book is filled with ideas of how you can get more out of life when you are worried and stressed and upset. You do not need to be chronically ill to get a lot from this book. If you are chronically ill, it is a life-ring that helps keep you afloat.

It is however up to you to take the routines described in the book and use them. The book is so simple. Through practices/routines it shows you what you can do. I will give you one example, that is found in this book. Close your eyes and think of something in your past that makes you unhappy, perhaps an event where you wish you had behaved differently. Pick something that troubles you in your past. Then open your eyes and look ilmmediately at your cat, or your garden, or your dog or whatever you do love. Something that makes you spontaneously happy! Don't you just feel the worry drop off you? You "dropped it", that worry. If you practice this in other situations you will learn and teach your body how to "drop it" on command. This book is filled with little things that you can do. Some worked for me. Others didn't. Some I simply didn't know what they were talking about, but I am just at the beginning. This is a little book to practice with.

OK, maybe borrow it from the library the first time you read it, but if you do not have it at home you will forget what to do. This book is written in such a way that you will understand what you must practice. YOU do them as much as YOU need them. You choose those routines that work for you.

This book refers to many other Zen and Buddhist books. The author gives examples that another particular book/author suggests. In this way you know which books maybe you want to try next. For me there is so much in this little book that I need nothing more, not yet at least. The magic of this book is that theses teeny exercises worked immediatley. She has a knack for explaining them. She is herself chronically ill. She has had to use these routines. She know what works and doesn't work. I think that is why she explains the routines so well. And the routines have fun little names so they are easy to remember.

I have had diabetes for 50 years. That is a long time. In the last year I have had increasing problems with my vision. This has really messed up my emotions. This book was a life-ring thrown to me. It is not going to improve my diabetes or my vision, but it will help lighten the emotional burden. Many of the ideas presented were in fact not new, but the book somehow has made these philosophical beliefs that I have always held a means by which I can fight worry and stress and fear.

P.S. The book is not perfect. I would sometimes think: "Hey, that is wrong! Here is a counter example!" But it helps so much so that it is worth five stars. When will I ever agree with everything I read?!
Profile Image for Melike.
390 reviews
September 13, 2022
There is so much wisdom packed into this book. I learned a lot, it gave me a lot to think about. I didn't rush through it, I let it thoroughly sink in. It is a book that I will turn to many times in the future. Thank you, Toni Bernhard, from the bottom of my heart.
2 reviews6 followers
November 1, 2010
I was unsure about this book initially because of its title. I found myself thinking " I don't want to know how to be sick, I want to figure out how to get well." However, after reading it, the only thing I did not care for about the entire book was its title and it has even grown on me. The book is Buddhist inspired. I found great help from it in spite of having essentially no knowledge about Buddhism. I plan on looking up some of the references to learn more, in fact.

Reading this book if you are chronically ill is like opening a treasured box of chocolates. Each one has a new flavor and builds on the experience of the entire box. The book is packed with pearls about dealing with chronic illness which also build upon themselves and lace the entire book with flavor of life and living in spite of the suffering that comes with chronic illness. At times I even cried, which is rare for me, because I identify with the journey of the author and her stories.

Toni reminds us that all people suffer and she frankly discusses the issues that come up with doctors, friends, family and self while dealing with chronic illness and then presents some solutions for not allowing those issues add to our suffering. There is a summary key in the back which also lists specific issues and practices which can be helpful when the issues come up. I felt like a dear friend was writing to me and I could completely relate with the mirror stories that have happened in my own life and even mirror lessons.......though I am not Buddhist.

I would recommend this book to anyone dealing with chronic illness or who is a caregiver for someone with chronic illness. It is a book I will reread which is also rare for me. It is also a book that I will likely purchase for other friends coping with chronic illness.
Profile Image for Sara.
140 reviews44 followers
March 11, 2013
My partner is quite impaired by a chronic condition about which the medical community knows little. The whole situation creates problems I really wouldn't have understood if I was simply watching a friend go through it. Do we try and talk about his condition to friends, to help them understand what's going on? Or do we keep our mouths shut because, let's face it, listening to people talk about their health problems is deadly boring (and if we had a choice, we would prefer to talk about something else)? Do we try and make social plans when we know 3 out of 4 times, my partner will have to cancel on them? But then again, that fourth time he has a great deal of fun. Do we try every hare-brained remedy that comes up on the internet (magnets! earth-friendly detergent! cultivating your gut flora!) in the hopes that something will help him, or do we try and adjust our lives to his present impairment and avoid the soul-crushing exhaustion that comes from chasing after every tiny promise of a cure? How do we tactfully decline medical advice from well-meaning friends who don't have the slightest idea what they are talking about?

This isn't a book with answers to any of those things at all. Instead it's a book that takes as its premise a reader in an irreducibly difficult situation. It then tries to communicate some ways that such a reader might cultivate compassion toward himself and toward the world around him, even when his difficulties can't be solved or magically dispersed. And I'd say for that reason, it's honest and it works. The author sticks closely to talking about herself, her own situation, reactions, and complicated feelings. This has the drawback (as other reviewers have pointed out) of perhaps making readers in more complicated situations (those with less money, those with small children) feel a bit alienated. At the same time, it keeps her from falling into the trap of simply telling people what to do. She says several times: this is what works for me. Maybe you can adapt some of it to your situation, but don't push what doesn't work.

The writing style is VERY clear and the bulk of the book is anecdotal, so it would not be hard for people with brain fog to follow a little bit at a time. And I can't get away from the feeling that this is a very, very, very smart book.

HOWEVER -- this might also not be a book for everyone grappling with a chronic illness. There were times when simply reading about her experiences of isolation and fatigue made me feel very hopeless about our own situation. She places the emphasis of the book on dealing with one's current situation, which may feel very disheartening to people who are still actively trying to seek a cure for themselves. There isn't anything in the book that advises ill people NOT to seek cures -- it's just that the book's main focus may not reflect the "we are going to overcome this no matter what" mindset you might have about your illness right now.

I certainly don't have the compassion that the author has sought to cultivate within herself. At times while reading the book I kept thinking "I don't know if I'm ready to be that good-hearted. I don't know if I'm ready to be that forgiving. Can't I just be angry and impatient a little while longer?" But I suspect if I am going to survive this current difficulty and not turn into a bitter person who likes no one and never has fun, I will probably need to bit by bit inch closer to the advice in this book. If you give this book a try, don't read it as if you were going to take all her advice on board instantly -- just browse it as information, and take it from there.
Profile Image for Orchid.
55 reviews
May 23, 2011
"It’s easy to look back and see what a mistake it was to continue working while sick—it probably worsened my condition—but many people who have contracted a chronic illness have done the same. First, there’s the financial need to keep working. Second, there’s the utter disbelief that this is happening to you (reinforced by people telling you that you look just fine—people who don’t see you collapse on the bed as soon as you get home)"

"Part of the reality of chronic debilitating illness is continually trying to figure out why you are so sick—and never getting a definitive answer."

"Ironically, people may think you’re giving up, when in fact you are simply giving in to the reality of your new life."

I'm only on chapter 3 but already this book is resonating very deeply with me- despite my illness being "illness lite" compared to what the author has gone through. I'm hoping this book will help me mentally, as it can be very trying to get my hopes up and get them dashed again. Need to gurd my loins here.
35 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2011
Living with chronic illness is not for sissies and there is not a lot of resources that help you deal with anything beyond the actual physical condition. Most people think in terms of varying degrees of good health and death...very few consider the limbo of ill-health or living indefinitely with a terminal illness. Friends desert you, life as you knew it ceases, your activities are limited, you can no longer count on your body to perform on a daily basis, no one allows conversation about your condition, your independence is non-existent, etc. This book addresses how to survive all of these changes in a way that you can handle without the assistance of someone else. It was extremely helpful.
60 reviews
August 4, 2022
This is probably the most important book I've ever read. For anyone who has a chronic illness, or takes care of someone who has a chronic illness, I can't imagine a better book. I keep it near me often & have it both on my Kindle and in print form so that I can mark the passages that resonate with me.

William has read parts of the book also and found that it not only affirms things we have both known (but sometimes forget when my flare-ups are at their worst) as well as new ways to cope and look at the world. It especially helped me this holiday season when I was not able to be part of several parties w/friends & family.

Even though neither of us are "religious", This Buddhist inpired book, along w/the wonderful computer/ipod/etc friendly yoga & meditations that I buy on my yoga teachers web-site, www.yeslifecoachcompanion.com have made terrible days, in tollerable days.

I highly reccomend this book to everyone. Toni Bernhard is wonderful and the struggle of her illness makes the fact that she has written this book even more of a feat.
Profile Image for Julie Markham.
102 reviews
February 22, 2015
My dear friend Bev sent me this book, thank you Bev! I am not a Buddhist, but I didn't feel that I needed to be in order to grasp the main points and gain insight from all of the lessons within. I think this book is perfect for all who are chronically ill, or care givers of the chronically ill, looking for a guide on how to better navigate and cope with the mental side of being ill. I know for me being chronically ill there is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness knowing you can't change the physical, but Bernhard shows through a series of simple practices that a change in perspective can lead you right out of that negative space mentally. One of my favorites is this affirmation: There is sickness here, but "I" am not sick. Very empowering! I will refer to this book again and again.
Profile Image for Happyreader.
544 reviews89 followers
April 11, 2011
You don’t need to be suffering from a chronic health condition to benefit from this book. I originally bought this book for my mother, who suffers from chronic pain, and ended up reading it myself in a single day over the Christmas holidays. Probably one of the most practical and helpful Buddhist books I’ve ever read. A well-written, accessible manual of how to approach life when it doesn’t go the way we expect it to, something we can all relate to. I almost wish the title was something more along the lines of “When Life Disappoints” so that people who consider themselves healthy would pick up this book. As it is, an excellent book for chronic health sufferers and life sufferers alike.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
98 reviews13 followers
December 17, 2011
Plenty to say about this. Just not sure I can do it tactfully. A good book for some people, especially when you are bogged down with despair and don't know how to get out. It does give some good strategies for beginners of the whole "you choose your emotions" school of thought or Buddhist concepts in general (of which I'm a beginner, myself). But it might not be so helpful for those who are determined to heal and aren't really interested in fulfilling others' needs to have their suffering stories heard. I know it's a valid need for a certain stage in the "grieving" etc. process of the trauma of losing one's health, but I'd like to see people separate their memoirs a little better from their so-called self-help guides.* After a point, we need to put aside all the indulgences in our suffering and get down to the business of healing (two words: Gupta Programme). I also can't give any book more than 2 stars if it perpetuates the myth that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a permanent condition.

And yet another criticism (acknowledging that no one book can please everyone and the author's privileged circumstances are not a "fault,") is that if you're not upper-middle to upper class; you don't have a spouse to support you; you are young and haven't had a fulfilling career and/or children/family of your own; you have the strain of caring for young children while ill; you are battling homelessness, lack of essential needs, lack of access to medical care, and family desertion; or your CFS has progressed to severe MCS; you'll probably hear yourself saying, "Quit your whining!" multiple times while reading this book. But then the lesson there is that it's all relative, an we can look to others who are worse off than us--at any given moment--as role models and evidence that we can survive and overcome more than we ever imagined we could.

All that aside, after experiencing the excessive negativity and lack of introspection amongst people with environmental illness (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, multiple chemical sensitivity, etc.) in online support groups, I would say that MOST people with those conditions (and many people with other conditions or NO physical conditions) would benefit from this book. As far as its use for other people, I might give it more like 4 stars. The 2 stars are just illustrating how it fits in with where I am in my journey.

*E.g. the book Breaking Out of Environmental Illness is separated into the story of the illness in the beginning and the story of recovery in the end.
Profile Image for Heather (DeathByBook).
23 reviews134 followers
January 5, 2011
This is a great book! Whether you have to cope with a chronic illness or just the chronic condition of being human, this book has something to offer. It is written in a non preachy way by a woman who knows what she is talking about. This is the first book of it's type that I have found helpful even when I am too unwell to get out of bed. It can be read in little parts or gobbled up whole. I keep it next to my bed for a refresher/reminder when my illness is weighing heavy and I forget "How to BE sick." I highly recommend it to everyone and I am buying extra copies for friends.
Profile Image for Laura.
313 reviews57 followers
September 20, 2019
I've had M.E 10 years this month yet it's taken me until now to read this genius book. I'm not Buddhist but there are already a lot of practices I try to use to get me through each day. However, Toni Bernhard really explains everything really well and her examples of using each practice in her own situation really helped to understand how to use them. The audiobook narrator was the perfect pick for this book, at no point did her voice become too much for my noise-sensitive ears which was such a relief. I'd recommend this to anyone and everyone with a chronic illness, I just wish I'd had it 10 years ago!
Profile Image for Tita.
8 reviews
April 8, 2013
This little book is a "MUST READ" for anyone with chronic issues (of which I have many). And it is the kind of book that one must not read at one sitting, though one will be tempted to do so. The compassion, the wisdom, the fellow-traveler warmth, the many suggestions and practices that Toni Bernhard offers need to be taken out one at a time, cherished, contemplated carefully, put to use in a mindful way. The book has become a dear friend at my bedside, offering comfort when I need it most. Although I have not finished it-- and maybe I never really will, since I would guess that I will keep re-reading and ruminating over its wisdom over and over--there is no doubt but that there are not enough stars to rate this book. My sincerest gratitude to Toni Bernhard for sharing her tears, her laughs, her heart, her wise soul with those of us who are in need.
Profile Image for Beatrice Marie.
102 reviews
March 29, 2011
The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is that is specialized. Hopefully you will never fall into the category of people living with a chronic illness, because that stinks. If you have, this is a must buy. She writes with much grace about the psychological and spiritual changes that she made in order to deal with her case of chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. She uses Buddhist terminology to describe her path from anger to acceptance and from isolation to solitude.

Life is really hard. So what do you do about it? You don't need to be sick to find gems of wisdom from this book.
Profile Image for Nat.
109 reviews66 followers
May 21, 2020
I’m very new to Buddhism and wish to pursue it further.

Most of this book has given names to practices I already implement to help me cope with chronic illness. Practices which have naturally evolved with time as I have come to terms with my new life. I guess I’m naturally inclined to Buddhist thinking! It has reinforced their importance though, which is good, and it’s given me new things to try and to develop further.

I should probably have read this sooner when I was less able to cope with my illness.
Profile Image for Gwen (The Gwendolyn Reading Method).
1,669 reviews476 followers
October 12, 2018
A good read for anyone with a chronic illness. Toni's chronic illness is much more severe than mine, but any Chronic Illness is a mentally heavy weight to carry and this book offers some great techniques for handling the load.
Profile Image for Bridget.
20 reviews
May 23, 2015
This is one of the first books I've read in regards to chronic illness. It is AMAZING. It's refreshing to see someone being so honest about being sick, acknowledging how awful it is and sharing ways to make life a little easier. Highly recommended for any spoonies out there.
854 reviews45 followers
August 5, 2016
I've been living with chronic illness my entire life: I was born with a genetic immune deficiency which has worsened with age. Along with the immune deficiency, I have several other auto-immune conditions as well as a chronic pain syndrome. To look at me, you'd never know how sick I am: I look perfectly fine on the outside. People like me are said to have "invisible illnesses." We are often misunderstood by family members, friends, even health professionals (for those of us with rare conditions, like me). Trying to live a full and happy life despite my health challenges is my greatest struggle. It's even more profound now that I'm a mother: I don't want my daughter to see me as a sick person. I want to be the best that I can be for her, and have the most positive outlook possible.

So it was with excitement that I read Toni Bernhard's How to Be Sick. I read an article written by Toni online and loved her writing style and message. I immediately bought her book and I simply devoured it. This book spoke to me and affected me deeply. I am a Christian and was a little leery of the fact that this book is Buddhist-inspired. I didn't know what that meant, really. All I knew about Buddhism is that practitioners meditate. That was it!

Toni gently educates the reader by applying Buddhism's principles to how to live peacefully with chronic illness. The main concept of this book is how to alleviate the mental suffering that accompanies chronic illness. Common examples of mental suffering are: asking why is this happening to me, being envious of healthy people, and being uncertain about the future (when will I relapse, will this treatment work, fear of testing and doctor visits, and fear of being unable to attend family events, etc). These issues are all things I struggle with in my every day life. So, to read a book that teaches me specific ways to address these fears was a true gift.

I loved that Toni gives so many practical examples throughout the book. The examples really drove the points home and made me feel like I could start applying what I learned right away. There is a great section at the end of the book with bullet points of what to do in certain situations. I loved that!

As soon as I finished How to Be Sick, I turned back to page one and got my highlighter ready. Now I'm reading the book a second time and really making a study of this insightful, life-changing guide. I can't say enough good things about this book. If you have anyone in your life who is chronically ill, or a caregiver, I would highly recommend How to Be Sick!
Profile Image for Kara Kozla.
53 reviews6 followers
August 16, 2014
I think that if you are ready that this book is an excellent tool. When I first got sick I might have thrown this book at you. I would have told you I wouldn't need it, that I was going to get better because I wasn't in the place to accept everything. Now, I wish I had this book a few months ago... maybe even 6 to 8 months ago. I think that once you start to accept what is going on this is a great lifeline to have. For each person, depending on how stubborn that person is (I took longer than some might), this is good to give them techniques to comfort them into how to deal with what might happen, how to deal with what is going on, and how to cope with changes. I purchased a physical copy (even though those are harder for me) because I wanted to be able to mark it up, lend it if needed, and to be able to go back to it and go to the dog eared pages. To be able to copy things immediately for those I know that could use things and to go from there. It is a valuable resource and it is a gift that the author, someone suffering in her own right, gave to everyone else and I truly thank her for it.
Profile Image for Rachel.
35 reviews4 followers
October 8, 2020
There is quite a bit here that can help chronic illness sufferers. I appreciated the portions were the author describes the practices and ideas that help her cope. However, I wish the author had not just talked about her experience but also the experience of other people with chronic illness. I think a section on younger, especially single, people with chronic illness and practices that help them.
As someone who got ill before I got married or started a family, I felt a disconnect with some of the discussions from the author. I felt this especially when she talks about taking comfort in the relationships with her husband and children.
I also think a section or some antidotes from non-white people with chronic illness would also be helpful. I have heard from members of that community over and over again that they have a different, and more complicated, relationship with the medical system and how it negatively affects their medical outcomes. That must be so difficult on top of being chronically ill.
Profile Image for Jenny Whetzel.
422 reviews25 followers
July 15, 2016
I started to read this then decided to stop and start again when I could dedicate more time to make highlights in the book. I absolutely LOVED this book! This is now going to be my illness bible. :) I have a lot of health issues as well so I felt connected to the author. But being someone with no chronic illnesses? I'm not sure if they would like it less or not.

The author makes great points and uses plenty of examples (yay!). Most of the skills she lists in the book I have already learned from therapy but it is nice to see things from another perspective. I have another book of hers and know I will continue to read more of her work when it becomes available.
Profile Image for Sara Habein.
Author 1 book67 followers
October 29, 2011
I'd wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone dealing with chronic illness, but especially those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, lupus, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or any other complex condition that is not easily treated. I'm glad I finally read it, and it's one I'll be referring to every time I need a little extra help.

(My full review can be found on Glorified Love Letters.)
31 reviews2 followers
May 16, 2012
As a woman suffering with chronic illness, just as Toni has suffered, this book opened my eyes to possibilities of how I could cope with my feelings. Her honest recollections of how she rode a rough ride through the medical community who had little or no answers for her illness. Her Buddhist Inspired writing, and explanations can bring the reader to a different place. A place where acceptance sounds possible. A musr read for anyone suffering with illness and their caregivers
Profile Image for Lauren.
504 reviews1,633 followers
July 4, 2021
DNF at 28%.

You know what? I'm not going to waste more of my precious time & attention on this. I knew going in that it was going to be somewhat spiritual, but it's simply too much for me to deal with. I'm not spiritual at all and I have too much brain fog for me to remember all those random Buddhism rules.

Would love any recommendations of more down-to-earth & simple books about the chronic illness experience to make me feel less alone.
Profile Image for Loretta.
987 reviews8 followers
July 20, 2022
This is an excellent book. I picked it up because it was an optional read in a meditation course I’m taking, and the. It moved up my to read list because I’ve been feeling like crap for a while. (On the mend now but still). This books is accessible, helpful, and honest. No magic cures, no toxic positivity or BS wellness. Just helpful tools and truth for sick folks and caregivers.
Profile Image for Ina.
79 reviews10 followers
May 15, 2022
This is the second book about chronic illness that I've read (the first being What Doesn't Kill You by Tessa Miller) that tries to be an autobiography and a self-help book all at once, which unsurprisingly makes it fail a little bit at both.

In both examples, it sounded to me like the author was trying to write a book to help others with chronic illness but an unresolved need to be understood and for the world to see how deep their suffering is or has been keeps coming up and obscuring the goal. The result is a distracting overly detailed sometimes repetitive stream of personal stories, coupled with a haphazard bombardment of advice. Bernhard's version being far more tolerable to me than Miller's though. The latter additionally being punctuated by parroted political rhetoric.

Honestly, I would have loved to read an autobiography or an account of their health journeys by both authors. I think both have enough stories to tell for a separate book and that would truly help me as a reader in gaining more visibility, understanding and resolve to push through difficulty like they have. I think Bernhard also has very valuable things to share in terms of chronic illness related self-help practices. Miller's advice on the other hand, read as lacking insight and as something that would be common sense to most people who have already been dealing with chronic illness for some amount of time.

Props to Bernhard for including a concise resumé of all the mentioned self-help techniques and their respective uses at the end of the book. A gem for all foggy-brained chronic illness sufferers reading. You do need to go through the book to understand and implement them but its a very helpful aid. The format of the book is also very fog-friendly, having large spaces between paragraphs and short chapters. It's quick and easy to read which could partly be explained by Bernhard's own condition while writing, but could also be seen as the author's good understanding of her target audience.

I'm left curious as to why Tony (Bernhard's husband, namesake and primary caretaker) was not mentioned in the gratitude section. The dedication of the book is to him, but after everything we've read about them and their relationship, it felt like he deserved a rightful spot in the gratitude section as well. I'm guessing they have their reasons for coming to this creative decision. They sound like a strong and loving couple, I wish them well.
Profile Image for AW.
2 reviews
April 18, 2023
Recommended by a friend who is chronically ill. Ill/disabled people, of course, are the intended audience, but this would be very helpful to our caretakers and keeps a steady eye on how to be mindful of the people who take care of us. However, anyone experiencing the grief accompanying significant life changes—especially aging—would also likely benefit from the author’s approach. It’s the first Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired introduction to applied Buddhist principles that has really affected and influence my mindset and practices. It neither drifts into philosophy nor even spends a lot of time on the principles at work in various situations, focusing rather upon exactly what the title promises: “how to.”

I didn’t expect for it to be so helpful that I would end up working through sections so slowly or listen to various chapters multiple times, especially the last section on wise action. This experience was facilitated tremendously by the reader’s voice and inflections, which were perfectly suited to the content matter as well as soothing to my jangling nervous system. The audiobook format facilitated focusing on breathing and grounding while listening. Those would have been more difficult for me to achieve had I been reading it on the page or screen.

Relief comes in many guises.
Profile Image for Gry Ranfelt.
Author 3 books13 followers
June 18, 2016
This book is an absolute treasure that I would recommend to any human, sick or well. For the sick this book has a lot to offer in way of practical methods, hopeful encouragement and consolation - you are not the only one - and for the healthy of body and mind this book can help you appreciate your health, use it more efficiently and you, too, can use the many methods in this book to overcome suffering (dukkha) in your own life.
Bitterness, frustration, anger, resentment, hatred, self-pity, shame and self-blame are terrible emotions to harbor. The person hurt most by them is the person holding them and this book can nudge you in the direction of letting go a little, and when you experience relief, maybe you can let go a lot.
Shouting at the person who cut you off in traffic? You're suffering.
Snapping at your parent, child, partner og roommate for doing something annoying? You're suffering.
Getting stressed about a mile-long to-do list that you can never finish? You're suffering.
Laying in bed all day, sick and without the means to get out and enjoy life like your peers? Suffering.
And this book has a lot to say about suffering and how to diminish it.
I hope you give it a try.
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