Living with Chronic Illness

Most people will experience two or more chronic, long-term illnesses during their lifetimes. Almost 60% of us have a chronic condition we deal with on a daily basis. Those of us with chronic illness need to find ways to live a life that’s as healthy as possible in spite of our ailments.

Whatever chronic illnesses you’re dealing with, be it arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, depression, liver disease, bipolar disorder, emphysema, cancer, stroke, or other diseases, not only do we have to deal with physical symptoms like pain, inflammation, stiffness, etc., but we also have to cope with the psychological symptoms like frustration, anger, fear, and helplessness. Living life as fully as you can while you have a chronic illness can be tough.

So, how do we manage to find a way through the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms we have to contend with? There are things you can do to make your situation better. Finding others who have the same disease or condition can reduce feeling as though no one understands you or recognizes what you’re going through. Sometimes it can help if you know other people are living with the same thing and are doing so successfully. It provides a bit of hope when you’re feeling bleak.

Avoid developing the mindset that your illness is all there is and that you are the disease. When you filter everything in your life through the lens of the disease or condition you have, you lose sight of what’s important and who you really are. You are more than your illness!

Try journaling how you feel about the disease and what it is costing you. Putting it down on paper can help you identify your feelings. If you know what they are, you’ve got a better chance of working through them and not letting them define you. Journaling can also help you prioritize the issues and questions you want to discuss with your doctor.

You are the expert on what you are going through. Sometimes you have to keep your health care team focused on what’s important to you as they tend to see only the disease and not the person behind it. Remember, we don’t always respond in the same way. Medications can affect people in different ways, and our illness may manifest in symptoms, unlike those other people experience. If you don’t fit the mold on a specific disease, then you may have to treat your symptoms rather than the disease. It might help to keep track of your symptoms. If you can see improvement in how you feel now compared to how you felt last year, you can see that you’re making progress.

It is your responsibility to take the best care of yourself as possible. Seek out ways to live as fully as you can. Don’t give up. It is possible to live with chronic illness and still have a meaningful life.