Relationships, Part 59, When Illness Takes Over: Calibrating your Compass


Take a perfectly functional compass and put it in a room with an electromagnet and it will forget which way is north. It’ll point to the magnet because the magnet is exerting a force that it cannot ignore, far more powerful than that exercised by the distant, measly north pole.

When illness enters a relationship it exerts a force every bit as compelling as that magnet. You can do nothing without taking a look in its direction. It will alter your attitude, change your course, and make you forget yourself and your values. You can do nothing without checking with the illness first.

You must get free of that interference and recalibrate your compass.

If you’ve ever recalibrated a compass, you’ll know that, for a minute or two, the needle will spin around aimlessly until it finds magnetic north. You’ll be lost if you try to use it then and confused if you rely on it for direction.

When people free themselves of the effects of the illness, for a minute they feel similarly lost and confused. When they discern the illness, starve it, get help, create illness-free zones, take care of themselves, and take steps to their own growth, they feel as though they have lost their bearings. They don’t know what’s important anymore because they’ve been separated from their values for so long. Many go back to having their lives dictated by the illness. It is more familiar and comfortable.

To remain free, it’s important to stay with the process long enough to get your bearings straight. Reconnect with your values as you might find them in your religious faith, spiritual practices, the story of your life, the way you find meaning and purpose, or the things you told yourself you would never do.

The process my cell phone goes through to calibrate its compass gives us hints as to what this is like. Your cell phone compass probably works the same way as mine. In order for it to be correct, you have to tilt it this way and that. As you do this, a graphic in the phone helps you cover each direction completely. You fill up a circle as you tilt it every which way.

The process you will go through as you recalibrate your own internal compass is similar. You have to tilt briefly in every direction. Take a look around before you charge forward or go back. Take stock. Take inventory, first, before you move on.

About Keith R Wilson

I am a licensed mental health counselor and certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor in private practice with more than 30 years experience. What I'm working on now: I'm writing a self help book, titled, The Road to Reconciliation. I recently published a self help book, Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments. Experimenting with new ideas and characters in fiction under the pen name, S Harry Zade, in the blog, A busy mental health counseling practice in Rochester, NY: Keith Wilson - Counseling. Writing about mental health and relationships at Taking photographs and sharing them at Other Books I've Written Two novels: Intersections and Fate's Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic
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