“I was ten years old when I was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that has caused me pain, fatigue, and mood swings. At times, I feel worthless.”- Juliana
“When I learned that I had cancer in my lung and colon, I thought that I had just received a death sentence. But after I got home from the doctor, I thought, ‘OK, it’s not what I expected, but I have to find a way to deal with this.’” —Linda.
If you have been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness, it can be really distressing and that is something you know. Apart from dealing with the disease itself, there’s also the emotions that comes with it. Fear and anxiety can be intensified by the never ending medical appointments, difficulty obtaining or paying for treatment, or the unpleasant side effects of medications. The mental anguish associated with serious illness can also be overwhelming. It is an experience that drains one’s energy physically and emotionally.
It is okay to have those rush of feelings right now. You have every right to feel the way you feel. The struggle of who you were and what you are going to become can be frustrating. Sometimes you feel like giving up. Although your illness or impairment may be a physical fact, your mind resists the changes that the illness has forced on you. It may seem that your illness has the upper hand in this battle, yet you can beat it. How?
Learn About Your Illness
You might feel disrupted as you learn that you have a chronic illness that you will live with for the rest of your life. The first and most important thing that you need to do is learn about your illness and condition. Information gathering is part of an important process of coming to terms with your illness and putting it into perspective. Accepting that your life has been changed but that it is not over is a delicate and often slow process. But it is a step forward.
It may not be possible to cure the disability, but knowing how to cope can minimize the mental and emotional impact of illness. Find a communicative and helpful doctor, one who is willing to take the time to explain everything carefully to you.
The next step is to keep asking specific questions until you understand the situation very well. Remember, however, that when you are with the doctor, it is easy to get nervous and forget what you wanted to ask. One helpful suggestion is to write down questions in advance. This is way better than dealing with the fear of the unknown.
Have a positive attitude
Focus on things that you are still able to do. The situation can make you totally negative but you have to realize that you still have so much. You still have life, one another, and your friends.
Although chronic illness is not to be taken lightly, a healthy sense of humor helps to prevent a spirit of pessimism. You can laugh at things that happen to you that might seem very upsetting to others. Doing so really helps to relieve the tension.
It might seem difficult to cultivate a healthy attitude towards your situation but your mindset can be tailored towards that. Being happy is a decision and you can make that a priority.
Give Yourself Time
Living successfully with a chronic illness is a process that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time for you are learning an entirely new skill of dealing with a chronic illness. No matter how positive you try to be, you may still have bad days when the effects of your illness wear you down. This is okay. In time, however, you may see progress. That was the case with one woman, who said: “I was so excited when I realized that I had gone an entire day without even thinking of cancer. . . . A while ago, I would never have thought that possible.”
Indeed, once you have lived through your initial fears and have set new goals, you may be surprised at how well you will be able to cope. Thus, give yourself time and take it one step at a time.
Find ways to reduce stress.
Studies confirm that stress may worsen the physical symptoms of a disease. Thus find ways to blow off steam. Give yourself a break from time to time. Do not eat, sleep, and breathe your illness. If you are homebound, you may try to lower the pressures of your emotions by listening to quiet music, reading a book, taking a long bath, painting a picture, playing a musical instrument, talking to a trusted friend, or other activities that you find relaxing.
If you are mobile, take a walk, go shopping, do gardening, take a drive or, if possible, go on vacation. Indeed, your illness may be part of your life, but it does not have to take over your life.
Draw closer to God
Some who are successfully coping with chronic illness state that their faith in God and also their association with the christian brothers are sources of constant comfort and strength. If you are christian, spend ample time reading your bible. Pray to God for strength to deal with your illness. If you are a Muslim, draw closer to Allah and observe prayers as much as you can.
Only God can provide the ultimate comfort. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. He understands what you are going through and will never leave or forsake you. He promises a time when sickness, pain and death will be no more. As a christian, look forward to this day when no living soul will say “I am sick”.
Living with a chronic illness can be nerve racking. With these few suggestions, you can make living with an illness bearable. What are some of the things that helped or is helping you or someone you know cope with a chronic illness?