Coping with chronic illness
I certainly have experience in coping with chronic illness. My mother and I were both born with the genetic illness – Cystic Fibrosis. It’s an illness that tends to get worse with age. My mother dies at the age of 50 in 2000 and I am now 46. It does make me try to enjoy each day and not assume I will have many years ahead. I try to remain as neutral as possible about the future, neither catastrophising nor being too in denial. I have put together a few suggestions for coping with illness. If it isn’t well managed it can lead to depression…
Chronic illness is no fun but you don’t help yourself at all by thinking about all the worst case scenarios – they may never happen. Try to deal with the current info that you have and don’t predict the future in a negative way unnecessarily. Doctors don’t know everything and taking each day one at a time will save you a lot of heart ache.
It’s a good idea to understand your condition and find out as much as possible. Be wary of believing everything you read on the internet though. Googling your condition can lead you to catastrophising as the information is unfiltered. Try to gain a balanced understanding of your illness and use this to help you in your approach to your self care.
Our thoughts can take us off to scary dark places. Learning mindfulness is a great technique to help you stay grounded in the present moment as much as possible. Mindfulness is great if you tend to mentally torture yourself with all sorts of scary possibilities. Of course, this does not work if your illness involves chronic pain. This is better dealt with by devising a chronic pain management plan.
One of the best ways to help yourself is to accept what is happening. Acceptance allows you to deal with what is, rather than resisting reality and feeling worse. Acceptance means that you can confront what is going on and find the best ways forward, the best ways of dealing with what is. Shifting your focus from the cause to the symptoms is far more empowering as you can then adopt a problem solving approach and look at what is possible, what you can control.
Commit to your values
You can still choose to live a fulfilling life and have a life in line with what’s important to you. Do you value family, friendship, time alone or giving back to the world in a purposeful way? You can still do this, commit to following what is important to you.
Coping with chronic illness is possible. Sure, there will be awful days but I truly believe in the mind-body connection. I am very careful about the thoughts I choose to focus on. The scary negative ones still come but I am better at dismissing them. They’re just thoughts and I don’t have to believe them. I am philosophical about life and see a lesson in everything. I feel I have CF for a reason…I am not sure what that is but chronic illness has made me hungry to do more and to try not to waste time with toxic people or doing things I really hate doing and don’t want to do (within reason – there are some things that are unavoidable). I have more compassion and empathy for others than I think I would without CF. It’s about making the most of it and finding a ‘new normal’.