Learning how to cope with chronic illness is incredibly difficult, at times, devastating. It is hard to fathom that you wake up feeling unwell or in pain one day, which never goes away or gets better. ‘Get Well Soon’ isn’t applicable.
As someone who has been dealing with more than one chronic illness for several years now, I wanted to share my thoughts and tips on how to be mentally OK when your body physically fails you.
Stop Blaming Yourself
When I first began to develop the symptoms of what I now know is fibromyalgia, I blamed myself every day. I told myself that it was my fault because I was living my life too fast and not allowing enough downtime.
I now know that I was in fact, genetically predisposed towards the condition. No matter how I lived my life, chances are, I would have developed symptoms sooner rather than later.
My view now is that illness and disability are simply part of life. No one is immune – it’s a circumstance of being alive. Realise that you were not singled out and that life isn’t always fair. Letting go of unhelpful self-blame incurs a feeling of great relief. This is crucial, especially when your daily physical challenges are already enough to handle.
Be Open to Acceptance
I’ve always liked to control every aspect of my life and can be very stubborn. I’m a dreadful perfectionist and struggle to change this aspect of my personality. I want everything to be just right.
The problem with not accepting your situation is that you are effectively fighting against yourself. It’s an exhausting and painful loop. Focus on the things you can change or improve and learn to let go of what you can’t slowly.
Focus on Self-Love
When you can’t control your physical body, look to what you can have power over. This is key in learning how to cope with chronic illness.
After several years of being chronically ill, I realised that if I were going to survive, I would have to up my opinion of myself. I began to look within and address long-standing issues that had affected my self-esteem. I realised that many of these issues were simply down to flawed perception, which was wrong.
Chronic illness almost forces you to love yourself unapologetically. Embrace it. KTMY has some great posts on this topic.
Redefine What Having a Career Means
Many with chronic illness find themselves unable to maintain the career they worked hard for or having to give up favourite activities. The result of this is that you end up feeling like a total failure.
It’s important to overcome this mindset. Your worth is not dependant on whether or not you can work an employed job. Instead, re-evaluate and make a list of the things that you can do. Did you always want to learn photography? Write a novel or short story? Start a blog or YouTube channel? Build an e-commerce brand?
There are so many possibilities, the majority of which will more than likely be far more satisfying than your old job. You may even be able to find a flexible position working from home. The bottom line is having a focus which isn’t your illness can work wonders for your mental health.
Value the Little Things
Learning to accept how to cope with chronic illness can be very depressing. Some days will be insufferable, both physically and mentally. Tell yourself, however, that better days will come and when they do, celebrate them.
Enjoy the small things and moments. Look to what you’ve enjoyed, whether that’s finally travelling to a place you’d always wanted to see, watching a moving drama or reading a great book.
It may not be the way of life you would have chosen, but there are still ways to make it work and be contented simultaneously, however surprising this may seem.