“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience where you really stop and look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

I was always picked on as a kid. I was too afraid to stand up for and defend myself. I remember one particular instance where I was bullied on the bus by a classmate in the eighth grade, and instead of standing up to her and fighting back, I avoided her. I would walk home through the streets and the woods after school. Even the creepy creek, with its old bridge and quietness, did not deter me. I think I would have rather died than stand up for myself back then.

I had the same problem through adolescence and early adulthood. I ended up working for a supervisor who was a bully. She would lose her temper with me frequently if my work was not perfect, and would tell me I was stupid. I even had one co-worker actually throw something at me in anger. However, I did not defend myself. My supervisor would describe me as someone with a meek and mild manner.

Then one day, when I was 29 years old, I noticed that my hands were hurting when I woke up in the morning. I could hardly bend my fingers because they were so swollen. I was in a lot of pain. I then went to see my doctor, who ran some tests. She noticed that my white blood count was low, my red blood count was low, and my platelet count was low. She diagnosed it as systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. I knew that the disease could be fatal if left untreated. So, she referred me to a rheumatologist for treatment.

My rheumatologist quickly put me on plaquenil for the inflammation in my joints. I had to be hospitalized twice for observation because the lab work looked so abnormal. I even had pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining around the heart. Sometimes it hurt to breathe and this symptom would cause me to take off work for several days at a time.

At around this same time, I learned about the world of self-help through a colleague of mine. I discovered the work of Louise Hay, who believed in the metaphysical healing of illness through affirmations. When I read her book, You Can Heal Your Life, I realized that what she had to say seemed right. Her philosophy really resonated with me. She believed that the same mind that created the illness can create wellness in the body. She worked with many clients and discovered the metaphysical causes and treatments of illness through affirmations. She believe people could heal through thought alone.

I was particularly interested in her probable cause of lupus, which was “A giving up. Better to die than stand up for oneself. Anger and punishment.” I also noted the new thought pattern, which was “I speak up for myself freely and easily. I claim my power. I love and approve of myself. I am free and safe.”

Every day I repeated this affirmation. I repeated it in front of the mirror, first thing in the morning and before I went to bed at night. Then my life slowly started to change. I started to speak up and ask for the jobs I wanted at work, and because they liked me, they gave them to me. I stood up to a co-worker who often picked on me, and to my surprise, she backed down immediately! I never knew that standing up for myself was so easy. I had such a hard time in my youth believing that!

The best part of doing these affirmations was that I started to feel better. I loved myself more. I respected myself enough to defend myself and ask for what I wanted.   Then I started to exercise, because after all, loving yourself means taking care of yourself. I started to eat better – I even gave up refined sugar for a while. Finally the rheumatologist confirmed when I already knew for some time, that I had no active disease for a long time!   He told me to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. He was happy for me and stated that he could not take any credit for it – I had gotten better by myself.

I thank Louise Hay profusely for showing me the way, but I have another person in my life for whom to be grateful. My mother was such a great role model for standing up for oneself. She often reminded me of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. My dad described her as “formidable”. However, she was a loving person who asserted herself when necessary. She really taught me to stand up for myself at an early age, and even though I didn’t follow it at first, I put it into practice later on in life when I discovered Louise Hay. What a gift I had been given! It is my desire that you also learn from my story. I really believe the way to recover from lupus is stand up for yourself. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”, as Eleanor Roosevelt would say. I invite you to learn to speak up for yourself whenever necessary if you suffer from lupus. You will be very glad you did – you just may get better like I did!