February 7, 2018

Feeling Chronically Ill, but not sure why? You may have “Shaman Sickness.”

Going through life, we can forget who we are.

Maybe a little bit, or maybe a lot—sometimes so much so, we need a huge-ass wake up call to help us remember.

The latter is what happened to me.

I was trucking along (not-so-merrily) on my way to a “normal life.” I went to a good college, got a full scholarship to grad school, got accepted into the Presidential Management Fellows program, and then landed a climate change-related job that, on paper, sounded like I was saving the planet.

Except I felt like I had lost who I fundamentally was.

It wasn’t that the work I was doing wasn’t important; I just felt super disconnected, like I couldn’t tangibly see or feel how I was making a difference.

My relationship at the time was also intense. We really loved each other, but we were also both dealing with a situation that was largely out of our hands. You see, he had run into some legal trouble, and I was trying valiantly to figure out how the f*ck to save him.

Which is, of course, when my body went haywire.

One day I was fine, and the next day—bam!—anything I ate gave me symptoms. My whole system was in turmoil.

My stressed-out mind hoped it would just go away…but it didn’t. It lingered—and intensified.

I tried everything under the sun. Modern medicine. Natural medicine. No medicine. Eating this diet or that diet. Reiki. Therapy. Acupuncture. None of it worked.

This struggle continued for a few years, and I felt like giving up.

But one day, I was reading this book and came across a new concept. It was just a few pages really—but it hit home.

It’s called “shaman sickness,” and it actually refers to a well-documented phenomenon. According to some anthropologists, in many traditional societies, shamans (also known as druids, medicine people, healers, and empaths) discovered their calling after being struck by prolonged, incomprehensible illness, which healed only when they accepted the spiritual nature of their vocation and allowed themselves to “shamanize.”

If I had read this a few years ago, during my “normal” life, I would have scoffed, rolled my eyes, and thought “woo-woo crazy” as I twirled my finger next to my temple.

But when we experience something, and then begin to see it elsewhere, and then research comes up to smack us in the face, it becomes a little hard to ignore anymore.

Shaman sickness is an illness, disease, or set of symptoms—mental or physical—that does not respond to normal treatment. The illness is cured only when the healer accepts their gift and steps into their role as a mystic. In doing this, the shaman can work with others who are struggling to cross this same territory.

In other words, the healer heals themselves, to then heal others.

Across many cultures, shamans share certain characteristics. Typically during childhood, they may be sickly or accident-prone. They are extremely empathetic, sensitive to the emotions of others, and may suffer from high anxiety or emotional overload. They may deal with depression or substance abuse issues as a result of being so “wide open.” Some have dreams or visions, either when awake or asleep, which often lead to a lifelong interest in spirituality.

People tend to be drawn to these visionaries for advice. However, the challenge is that these healers struggle to find anyone able to understand them.

How do you know if you are one of these people? See if you resonate with these statements:

>> You’ve always felt a bit…different from everyone else. Odd or outcast even. And yet, you have the ability to help others feel like they are accepted and understood.
>> You have this incredible urge that you have something very important to do in this lifetime.
>> You have a vision for the world that most cannot see within the context of the current reality.
>> Surface-level conversations do not interest you. You crave deep connection.
>> You’ve experienced what is sometimes referred to as “the Dark Night of the Soul“: losing a family member, suffering from illness, and/or experiencing deep emotional or spiritual turmoil.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Well, I’m sure everyone feels or has experienced this in some way.”


Because we are all, in our own unique way, shamans. We are all healers.

The thing is, in Western society, with our veneration of modern science, stepping into a role of a mystic can classify us as borderline insane. A true “Froot Loop.”

So what do we do with the gift? We repress it. And what happens to all that energy? It goes into our body. And gets stuck.

Many healers have taught about their personal journey through self-healing, and the resulting work they do with clients. Some notable ones include:

>> Louise Hay, teacher and author of You Can Heal Your Life, which has sold over 50 million copies world-wide.
>> Amy B. Scher, energy therapist and author of the book This is How I Save My Life, chronicling her journey of stem cell and energy healing.
>> Bruce Lipton, scientist and author of Biology of Belief, with scientific evidence that energy and our environment are what determine our genetic expression.
>> Carolyn Myss, medical intuitive and author of the acclaimed Anatomy of the Spirit…to name just a few.

What do all of these journeys have in common? That not accepting this knowledge that we have a calling drains and weakens us. We start to experience feelings ranging from low-level malaise to full-blown addiction, bodily breakdown, or chronic exhaustion.

That is until we decide to claim our true destiny.

After a while, I got the message my body had been sending me for years. Some rendition of “Danielle! Go out there and be you!”

So I did. I started getting into personal growth, self-exploration, and inner work as they call it. I took training after training and was able to start combining the modalities and frameworks I was learning and using them on myself.

If getting sick or stuck is a breakdown, then healing is most certainly a breakthrough.

This wasn’t just the case for me. When I shifted my work into focusing solely on helping change leaders step into their vision, I actually found that 70 percent of them were struggling with ongoing illness or disease-like symptoms, and most of the time, they were doing what I did. Not fully standing in their own power. Not going in the direction their soul really wanted them to go. Not being themselves.

But here’s the thing I found with both my clients and myself: when we do answer our calling, allow ourselves to “shamanize” and embrace (even uncomfortably at first) our own power, unique gifts, and true nature, we are then able to heal.

Not just our bodies. Not just ourselves. We heal the whole damn world.



Author: Danielle LaRock 
Image: Pixabay
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman

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