How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, by Toni Bernhard, describes the author’s own journey from living in good health to living with a chronic illness. Her candid and emotional descriptions make it easy for the reader to connect with her experiences with family, friends, and medical professionals.
This book will help those with a chronic illness or caregivers for the chronically ill with a nervous system disorder, chronic fatigue, or even dementia such as the type caused by Alzheimer’s.
Bernhard gives specific advice for coping with illness using Buddhist principles as a guide. She describes both the physical and mental dynamics of being sick; thus, providing practical insight into the nature of chronic illness.
The book is divided into five sections, each describing a different aspect of Bernhard’s illness and how she comes to terms with it.
- How Everything Changed describes how she became ill.
- Accepting Pain employs Buddhist principles, specifically the Four Noble Truths, and how Bernhard integrates these beliefs to her own suffering. It is this relational aspect of the author’s experiences to Buddhist teachings that make the book so compelling. Bernhard offers a practical application of Buddhism for the layperson, without giving offense to the reader’s own religious beliefs. At the same time, her advice can be put to immediate use by someone who is chronically ill. The reader is willing to accept that advice based on the author’s results.
- Finding Joy and Love continues with more Buddhist teachings and offers “how to” advice for different issues Bernhard faced coping with her illness. Her discussion about Compassion is particularly useful for caregivers dealing with the emotional ups and downs of the chronically ill. The same holds true for her discussion about Equanimity in the following chapter.
- Turnarounds and Transformations describes her mental attitude towards her illness, and how different Buddhist practices helped her, especially meditation. She also offers advice about small actions caregivers can engage in for their loved one who is chronically ill.
- From Isolation to Solitude describes how caregivers are affected by simple questions from family members and friends. Bernhard addresses the topic of Isolation for both the chronically ill person and their caregiver, and offers some solutions for coping with it. This section of the book is especially relevant for the caregiver of someone who is chronically ill.
How to be Sick concludes with A Guide to Using the Practices to Help with Specific Challenges. Bernhard reiterates various Buddhist practices covered in the book and how they apply to specific situations the chronically ill may encounter.
Clicking on the book title will take you to the companion website, which provides an excellent Book Summary, Table of Contents, and more–a helpful resource for the reader and those who are curious about the book.
If you want to better understand how to deal with a chronic illness, or you are the caregiver for someone who is chronically ill, read How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, by Toni Bernhard.
The Caregiver’s Voice Guest Reviewer