Your doctor just told you that weakness in your legs is Multiple Sclerosis.
You’ve just started chemotherapy for Breast Cancer.
You just woke up in the hospital, finding out you had a stroke due to your Type II Diabetes.
Your life has changed dramatically in these moments. It’s a Hero’s Journey for sure.
The stages of the Hero’s Journey include two rough parts: Tests and Trials and The Ordeal.
I propose that major illness is not, in itself, a Journey, but part of these stages instead.
Don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I do not minimize or belittle illness. It will kick your ass! If you are dealing with a big disease you have a lot to deal with. There’s the physical pain, the incapacitation, the change in abilities. There’s the emotional and psychological impact the disease has on you. We can’t forget the logistical nightmare of appointments, waiting in labs, doctors’ offices, and hospitals and their impact on your family and work schedule. The topper of all is the cost of treatment. A major illness brings so much to handle that it’s completely overwhelming and would be for anyone.
We have to remember that a Hero’s Journey is mostly made up of the icky parts, but to make these icky parts matter is what we do with them once we get through them. To make your pain into a Hero’s Journey you have to get through two more stages: The Road Back and the Return to the Village with the Magic.
This point requires you make a decision. It’s perfectly ok to revel in your remission, your cure, and your gratitude for your health and life. You can stop here. There is no expectation for you to do anything more.
However… if you want to see yourself really grow and change you will need to go a little further to make it a Hero’s Journey: you need to set out to bring the magic back to the village.
“Bringing the magic back to the village” means you need to share what you’ve learned through the previous parts of your Journey with others so they can benefit from your experience and knowledge. There are infinite ways you can do this: volunteer, listen to others’ stories, write, or make art. These are just a few of the ways. If you take a little quiet time and listen to your true self, you will see the way to share your message.
You could make your message the remainder of your life’s work – or you could do a small share and call it done. The key part is you share that part of your self and your Journey with others. That is what brings your ordeal around full circle and makes it a Hero’s Journey.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash