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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,829 ratings  ·  245 reviews
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 chroni ...more
Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published (first published 2010)
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Mary Tonningsen Michelle, I am just seeing your question. I'm not sure who Peg is, but I wanted to let you know that there is nothing in this book that would make you…moreMichelle, I am just seeing your question. I'm not sure who Peg is, but I wanted to let you know that there is nothing in this book that would make you feel worse - no exercises, medication suggestions, no treatment ideas except for any 'treatment' you derive from loving yourself, being gentle with yourself, etc. It offers no cures for anything. Just beautiful wisdom that made me feel better! (less)
Mary Tonningsen Michelle, I'm not sure what 'good for 25 M.E.' means. If you are speaking of ME/CFS, that is what I have. I found this book incredibly helpful, even t…moreMichelle, I'm not sure what 'good for 25 M.E.' means. If you are speaking of ME/CFS, that is what I have. I found this book incredibly helpful, even though it offers no suggestions for medical treatment. It is not a cure for anything, just a way to live better with what you have. (less)
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Wilhelmina Jenkins
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 ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Anne (on semi-hiatus)
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
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the problems I had with this book were nicely put into a paragraph in the last few pages so I can just quote it here:

Now, on a day when I start to sink into that "Why me?" mood, I turn it into "Why not me?" I, too, have health insurance. I, too, did not suffer financially when I had to stop working, other than having to tighten out budget. I, too, have the best of caregivers.

I had high hopes going into this, and that is perhaps my fault, but this is more of the same from the same people
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 contin
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 co ...more
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
An important book for anyone with chronic illness, but unfortunately not quite as applicable to me as I had hoped.
Full review:
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Julie Markham
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Bevel
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 ...more
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 alo ...more
Heather (DeathByBook)
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 ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. Alth ...more
Beatrice Marie
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
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 i
Gwen (The Gwendolyn Reading Method)
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. ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
I'd So Rather Be Reading {Nat}
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, ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pw chronic illness who are stuck in a cycle of despair & are comforted by others' suffering stories
Recommended to Jennifer by: lots of people with MCS
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 storie ...more
Kara Kozla
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 som ...more
Jenny Whetzel
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sara Habein
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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.)
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gry Ranfelt
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly inspiring book. Though I'm not a Buddhist, I found the coping practices discussed to be very helpful. This book was a true eye-opener in that it made me rethink my approach to being chronically ill and my way of thinking in regards to the drastic life changes that were the result of my illnesses.

I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is, knows somebody who is, or is a caretaker of someone who is chronically ill.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I worked so hard to like this book but just couldn't connect ...more
Carrie Kellenberger
I have been following Toni Bernard's column How To Turn Straw Into Gold for years and her Buddhist-Inspired Guides have been on my reading list for what seems like forever.

As the years went by and I got sicker, I started getting angrier and angrier at how my body has betrayed me in so many ways. It finally culminated a week ago when I had to call my family in Canada to say that I was too sick to come home to Canada for my sister's wedding. The 24+ hour journey would mean stepping off that plane
Cliff Moyce
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been practising ‘western’ mindfulness meditation (using the popular apps) for the three years that I have been suffering from acute chronic pain (following disastrous spinal surgery). It made no difference to my pain, and I was starting to wish et why I was doing it. This book places mindfulness and other techniques / approaches in the context of the teachings of the Buddha, and in doing so it all started to make sense to me. It added to my repertoire of tips, tricks and techniques for le ...more
Picked this up after enjoying the author's blog on Psychology Today.

Toni Bernhard is a former law professor who caught a flu-like disease on a trip to Paris and that illness never went away. Not only is she chronically ill with an invisible illness, that illness is unclassifiable, most closely resembling chronic fatigue syndrome.

I should stop and define those terms. Invisible illnesses are those that you can't immediately see when looking at a person. Such conditions tend to attract the "you're
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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 C ...more

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