What My Chronic Illness Taught Me About Healing Versus Curing 

mbg Contributor By Maria Mooney, MSW, LSW
mbg Contributor
Maria Mooney, MSW, LSW, is a licensed social worker and holistic health coach. She received her B.A. in Criminology from the University of Miami and her Master's of Social Work from Rutgers University. She holds her holistic health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Woman alone

Image by Alex Tan / Death to the Stock Photo

When we experience dis-ease, there is a tendency to think in terms of absolutes: curable or incurable. This is partly due to the Western medicine model and partly due to modern society's dualistic nature. Our experiences are often lumped into black-and-white categories, leaving little room for the gray areas where much of life unfolds.

The words "healing" and "curing" are used interchangeably, but after being diagnosed with an incurable disease, I now realize that their definitions could not be more different.

My experience healing my incurable chronic illness.

I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy/complex regional pain syndrome (RSD/CRPS), a progressive neurological disease, several years ago. RSD/CRPS is considered "incurable," but I've chosen to believe that even if I can't be cured, that doesn't mean I can't be healed.

Curing signals the return of health, an absence of symptoms, and a remedy of disease. Healing, on the other hand, is a restoration of wholeness—a type of wholeness that is new, different, and can be even better than that experienced before the onset of disease. Healing is not the removal or cessation of symptoms but rather an integrative process that transcends the physical and includes mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

My diagnosis forced me to look within and change the way I was living. It forced me to spend time with mental health professionals and spiritual healers, which empowered me with tools to pursue the kind of healthy, balanced, and whole life that I've never had before.

Don't get me wrong: I would love for modern medicine to come up with a magic cure-all for RSD/CRPS—a quick and permanent cessation of the symptoms I experience on a daily basis. But that's not in the cards right now. All of my symptoms may never go away, but that doesn't mean that I'll never be whole again. The person I was before the onset of RSD/CRPS pales in comparison to the person I have become since the diagnosis. And hopefully, the person I am now will pale in comparison to the person I become eight years from now.

My advice to anyone with a chronic illness: Don't limit yourself to what others predict for your future. Break free and blaze a trail toward wholeness that no one ever expected to see. Take your mind off of the future cure and direct all of your attention and intention to the healing that can happen right now.

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