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Thriving with Lupus: My Self-Healing Journey

by Denise Dorfman(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 220 - February 2015

In 1996, at thirty years of age, I woke up with severe joint pain; it was difficult to move my fingers.  I went to the doctor, and she discovered that my white blood count, red blood count, and platelet count were abnormally low. It took several months, but the doctor finally diagnosed me with systemic lupus erythematosus.  I ended up in the hospital for observation and was prescribed plaquenil for inflammation.

In 1999, I started working for an IT consulting company.  A coworker introduced me to a major cosmetics firm that involved direct marketing.  Even though I did not do very well (I was not the sales type), I did grow a lot in the five years I was with the company. My unit director introduced me to the world of self-help. I believe that’s when I started to heal.  I received a lot of loving support from the women in my unit, which contributed to my healing. My self-esteem got better as my unit director supported me in my self-help journey.   I learned so much as a sales consultant. I started to read every self-help book I could get my hands on and I attracted people who were interested in self-help as well.   

Bullying Denise Dorfman 220

About one year after I joined that cosmetics company in May 2000, I started working as a customer service representative at an oil company. I was a contractor at first; the morale in the department was quite low.  Many employees were unhappy and often complained about their jobs. For some reason, probably due to the inspiration I received as a sales consultant, I decided to view this situation more positively. After all, this company had far better managers than I had experienced at the smaller companies where I worked.  I stood up for myself and told a different story about my work environment. I stopped gossiping, did not allow myself to be influenced, and focused on my work. I felt the managers were actually doing a reasonably good job at running the department. I simply would not participate in the drama everyone else was creating.

One of the main aspects of the job that people really disliked was the fact that everyone was ranked according to their work performance. Many people compared themselves to others and felt they were ranked incorrectly because they were better than someone who ranked higher. I did not participate in these shenanigans. I refused to compare myself to others, because I was learning that, on a soul level, we are all equal. No one is better or worse than anyone else. I think many people who have lupus feel ‘less than’, that others are more important than them, so they don’t speak up or stand up for themselves. I knew enough from reading self-help books that comparing myself to others was a waste of time and energy. I let go of speculating where I ranked. I let management worry about people performing better or worse than others. I refused to obsess about my seriatim ranking and how I measured up against others.

Thanks to my positive outlook, my lupus and mental illness symptoms got better. I was rarely sick and actually enjoyed my work. Management noticed my hard work and focus and praised me with positive feedback. I really felt that a large company was the best fit for me. I had finally found the right environment. I started to speak up for myself and to ask for what I wanted at work. I had never felt safe enough to do that at my previous jobs. I decided I wanted to go into billing and asked for the position. Since management liked my work ethic, I got the job. That’s when I was happiest. I found the job that was the right fit in the right environment.

About the same time I discovered Louise Hay and started reading You Can Heal Your Life. The words she wrote in that book just felt right to me. I was already quite intuitive, and this book helped develop my intuition further. I started doing affirmations and meditating daily. I was reading even more self-help books and also started to work out with a personal trainer. I was encouraged to clean up my diet and even temporarily dropped refined sugar. My lab work went back to normal, and my doctor took me off the plaquenil. He stated, “Whatever you are doing, keep on doing it.” This is when the doctor declared I had no active disease and hadn’t for a long time.

Since discovering positive thinking and Hay, I have not had any significant rheumatic events in thirteen years. Yes, I’ve had minor flare-ups but nothing very serious. When I have these flare-ups, I simply adjust my diet, exercise, and medications and do affirmations. My doctor still thinks I have no active disease because my lab work always looks normal. I believe anyone suffering from lupus does not need to ‘suffer’ anymore. If you can learn to stand up for yourself, ask for what you want, and defend yourself when necessary, you can beat lupus!

Later, at the oil company, there was a bully who tried to pick on me several times. I finally stood up to her and defended myself, and to my surprise, she simply backed down. I was amazed at how easy it was to stand up for myself. I simply had to state how I felt and say something in my defense. I learned a valuable lesson: most people will just back down when you defend yourself in an assertive, positive way. They also end up respecting you more. The bully from the oil company and I ended up being on very good terms and were friendly with each other from then on. We had worked out our issues, and I finally learned to defend myself once and for all.

I believe that when you really feel in your gut that it is easy to stand up for yourself, and you wind up practising it in your daily life, your lupus symptoms will start to go away.

Also, I remember when I was first diagnosed with lupus. For some reason, I did not go out and google the disease and find out as much as I could. I did not even ‘declare war’ on the disease. Intuitively I knew that was the wrong focus. I instead practised standing up for myself as much as I could and focused on health. I think people, through researching the disease, can become obsessed with this symptom or that symptom. If you are an obsessive type, be obsessed with health, not the disease. I’m not saying that you should be totally ignorant about lupus, but do not pay too much attention to researching possible symptoms or ‘doing battle’ with the disease. I think you will just create more disease.  I suggest just researching what symptoms you do have, instead of worrying and wondering about what might happen to you. As I have implied earlier, fear and lupus don’t go together well.

Speak Your Truth

I’m also not saying you should give up. That would make your symptoms worse as well. Simply focus on wellness and standing up for yourself in all areas of your life, particularly in finding good medical care, and you should get better. As I have pointed out, lupus simply cannot be active in an assertive person whose focus is on wellness and more meaningful aspects of their lives. When I first read the new thought pattern for lupus, it seemed an accurate description of how I was feeling. It was like a bell went off. I thought, “Yes, that’s right. That’s what I need to think and feel. I need to stand up for myself more often.” When I looked at the probable cause of the illness in You Can Heal Your Life, which is:

“A giving up. Better to die than to stand up for one’s self. Anger and punishment.”

In my early years, I really did feel that I would rather die than stand up for myself. I avoided confrontation because I could not defend myself. I knew that if I was ever going to overcome lupus, I was going to have to work on loving myself enough to defend myself. I had to feel worthy enough to ask for what I wanted or needed and stand up for my rights. I went to work right away, and it did not take long before I was happier with my life, and I felt better as time went on. This happened only five years after I was diagnosed with SLE, and life has gotten better ever since. 

If you have been diagnosed with lupus ask yourself if you have trouble standing up for yourself.  Also, are you focused on ‘fighting’ the disease rather than on wellness?  I believe those are the two main keys to healing yourself of lupus.  It’s that simple.      


Hay, Louise L.  You Can Heal Your Life.  Hay House, Inc. Carlsbad, CA.  ISBN 1-56170-628-0.  1999.

Further Information

Speak Your Truth: How You Can Recover from Lupus by Denise Dorfman is available from bookstores and retailers including Amazon:


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About Denise Dorfman

Denise Dorfman is a level II Reiki practitioner who holds an MBA.  Diagnosed with lupus in 1996, Denise simply decided to change her thoughts and lifestyle.  Six years later, her rheumatologist confirmed that she had no active disease.  Denise now lives a happy, healthy life in the Washington, DC area. Her book Speak Your Truth: How You Can Recover from Lupus by Denise Dorfman is available from bookstores and retailers including Amazon. She may be contacted via

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