Taking Care of Yourself When You Have a Chronic Illness
No one enjoys feeling sick, but most of us know that when we feel bad, it won't last forever. For millions of people living with a chronic illness, that isn't the case. Imagine going through life every day with symptoms no one else can see, tied down by an invisible weight that's impossible to shake off. It's never easy to live with symptoms that other people can't see. In many ways, people not knowing almost makes it harder to live with.
Although you will have to make some changes to how you live, it is possible to enjoy life and flourish, even with a chronic health condition. What's most important is taking care of yourself and looking after your mental health. Treating the body to alleviate symptoms and delay progression is only one aspect of care; you also need to look after your mind and tend to it as you adjust to living with a chronic illness.
Develop Healthy Distractions
It's easy to close yourself off to the world and stay inside when you're hurting physically and mentally. Some illnesses make it difficult to move around often while others cause you to find that going out just isn't worth the mental effort. You might have to spend more days inside than not, and many of them might be in bed or on the couch. When these days come, try to greet with acceptance. It's not your body's fault that you're suffering, and you don't need to feel any guilt or shame for not being as healthy as you wish you were. Instead, create a list of healthy distractions that you'll use to take your mind off of pain, discomfort and even bouts of depression. This could be artistic endeavors, like drawing or writing, or even just playing video games or watching your favorite TV series.
Address Your Fears and Anxieties
Living with a chronic illness makes you think about the future more often, and your thoughts are usually filled with worry. What will happen if your health deteriorates faster than you expect? Who will take care of your family or even take care of you? These types of thoughts are valid even if they aren't immediately relevant. Rather than shame yourself for having them or brushing them off, choose a time to think about them seriously.
You could do things to help ease certain fears; you may set up a life insurance policy now and consider selling it later. This would give you and your family finances to provide medical care and support if you need it down the line. The conversion process takes three or four months, and learning as much as you can now will help you plan ahead. You don't have to assume the worst, but it can actually bring greater peace of mind to take proactive and preventative action when you're still well.
Find a Support Group
No matter how isolating your illness might make you feel, you are never alone. The internet can put you in touch with other people living with your condition. There are often many people who have found ways to persevere and thrive despite their illness, and you may find comfort in their stories. It's also helpful to talk to someone who gets it, which even your most well-intentioned, supportive and loving family may not. Support groups aren't just for people living with depression or a mental health problem. They're also for people who are struggling with a diagnosis or trying to adjust to a new way of living with certain limitations.
Focus on What You Can Control
A chronic health condition can bring your life to a screeching halt. You might feel anger, shame, remorse and even guilt, wondering if there was any way to prevent this from happening. Many emotions will come, but they will also go in time if you let them. Instead of getting swept up in a sea that's out of your hands, think about what you can do now to help yourself feel better. Work with your doctor, talk to a therapist and don't be afraid to lean on others. You deserve support, even if you wish you didn't need so much right now. Eating well, exercising within your means and practicing positive self-talk will help you retain a sense of control as you adjust to life with your illness.