Having a chronic illness isn\’t like having the flu or a broken leg, where you know you will get better in a set amount of time. Having a chronic illness means that you don\’t have any certainty of when you may get better; in fact your illness may never go away. When suffering from a chronic illness you are often tired and in pain; it can affect your physical appearance or your physical abilities. It may prevent you from working, causing you financial anxiety and stress. You may also feel angry, questioning why this has happened to you. And of course, it doesn\’t just affect you. Family members and friends are also affected and influenced by the persistent health changes of a loved one.
It is easy to become isolated in these circumstances-the changes to your body and your abilities can affect your positive self-image, making it hard for you to interact with others. Stress can build and become prolonged which then leads to frustration, anger, hopelessness and sometimes even depression.
Seek help as soon as you can
When diagnosed with a chronic illness one of the first things you should do is to seek help.
Don\’t leave it until you are already struggling with the ramifications of your new health status. You should be building a support network as soon as you feel less able to cope and before you feel helpless. There are several forms of help available to someone in your position. A trained counselor or mental health care provider can help you develop strategies to regain a feeling of control and draw up a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. They can also determine if depression is present and can get you to the right medications to help regulate your mood.
Support groups are also useful, providing an environment where you can learn new ways to deal with your illness. You can share approaches that you have discovered with others, enabling you to be proactive in your illness not just reactive. Soon you will also gain the necessary strength to realize that you are not facing your illness alone.
Top Five Tips for Taking Control
- Accept your illness. This may sound defeatist, but if you make an effort to adapt then you can acknowledge your loss of happier times when you were physically able and emotionally strong. Accepting will help you face the new challenges in your life.
- Love yourself as you are today-your looks, your illness, your problems and your limitations. Take pride in what you can accomplish NOW.
- Take total responsibility for your health and never overlook all the help you can get.
- Become an expert on your illness. Research it, discuss it with fellow sufferers, always go to your medical appointments prepared with questions.
- Let go of the “Why me?” attitude so you can look forward and not backwards. Once you leave the past behind, you can solve the problems you are experiencing right now such as how you can still exercise despite the new weakness in your legs.
And remember, you are still â€œYOUâ€; the illness should not have control over your life
Learning how to manage a chronic illness is hard but once you find a way to do this while still being â€œyou,â€ the strength you will gain from this journey will enable you to get back the positive physical, emotional and spiritual outlook that you had in life before your illness.