18 May When Chronic Illness Changes Everything: How to Cope

Trudy Jacobsen | Chronic illness

What are you struggling with?

Cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, chronic fatigue, lupus, or migraines? Maybe your illness is yet unnamed but just as life-changing?

Pain that persists and twists your world changes who you are, how you operate, and how you relate. Regardless of your condition’s name, the struggle to adjust is real and, often, the reality hurts.

Still, you can cope. Just because life hurts, doesn’t mean life is over.

To move forward, let’s consider the following strategies for coping with chronic illness:

Become an Advocate for Yourself

Doctors and specialists are likely a part of your life for the foreseeable future. Recognising your need for self-advocacy will be important. Being ill doesn’t mean you lose the right to receive information or make decisions as you see fit.

However, maintaining your ability to speak up and retain your confidence when you’re hurting isn’t easy. Facing the experts and well-meaning service providers requires thorough self-education and communication tools that may be uncomfortable for you at first.

Consider work with a counsellor to ensure you come up with a game plan that ensures your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met.

Set Reasonable Expectations

No matter how tempted you are to deny it, ignore it, or rage against it, your chronic illness is not just an illness, it is your new normal.

To live well will require acceptance and the willingness to rethink your expectations of yourself. There is no shame in acknowledging how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour have been affected. It’s okay to feel and be different now. It’s okay to live your life differently according to new values and standards.

Change is part of this process. Uncertainty needn’t drive you toward depression or drive wedges in your relationships. Working with a counsellor to help set expectations and limits (for yourself and others) is crucial. Accepting and facing your life situation honestly is healthy, not an admission of defeat.

Prioritise Superior Self-care

Your self-care is no longer the option or back-burner activity it may have been in the past. You’ll find that self-care is both meaningful and mandatory.

Be sure to adhere to your treatment plan. Protect your emotional state with therapy sessions, journaling, or a similar practice of introspection and self-expression. Also, seek peace with prayer, meditation, and stress management exercises.

Your priority is not to do too much or push too hard. Instead, cope by being intentional with your energy. Use the days you need to rest for renewal without guilt or apology.

You are the final word on what matters and makes you feel good. Furthermore, keep in mind that many chronically ill people find that their illness facilitates a more focused, purposeful period in their lives.

Resist the Urge to Deny Yourself Support

You will endure the gamut of tough times throughout your chronic illness. Having your team hold you up, push you forward, or just be there will make all the difference.

Don’t let pain, shame, or anger isolate you.

When you release the idea that you must face this illness independently and embrace support, you may find your burdens aren’t as heavy as you once thought. Ask for help. Allow space for the generosity of your community. Relax, breathe, and receive kindness.  Doing so can boost your mental resilience and soothe you physically.

Take the Next Step

You may be chronically ill but your life is still yours. You may not be able to change or erase your condition, but you can cope. You can even thrive.

Finally, remember that you are not chronically alone. Please seek out the people and resources that will help you through. Talk to someone who can hear you and empathise. Professional guidance can help temper the overwhelm.

If you determine that you need help managing the impact of your diagnosis on your life and relationships, please contact me soon. Together, we can work through some useful strategies to navigate the challenges of chronic illness.

To schedule an appointment call 32825453 or email admin@counsellingaustralia.com.au