Chronic pain

Finding Your “Yes” When Chronic Illness Says “No”

Posted by on Jun 19, 2015 in Chronic pain | 0 comments

succulent gardenFor those who suffer from a chronic illness, even the day’s smallest tasks can feel unbearably difficult. If you or a loved one is currently dealing with this challenge, you understand the feelings of pain and defeat that can accompany everyday life. In the midst of this physical and mental anguish, it can seem daunting to attempt the search for hope and strength—but there are ways to move forward and press on.

Below are several suggestions for finding your “yes,” when chronic illness says “no.”

Take care of yourself

If you suffer from a chronic illness, the most important thing is to take care of yourself, first and foremost. It may sometimes be difficult to find your “yes,” but things will be that much harder, if you are trying to cope with extra and unnecessary pain. You may not be able to completely control your illness, but you can control many other aspects of your health.

Make sure to always stay on top of your medications, your doctor appointments, your therapy, your diet, your exercise, and any other areas required in your individual situation. Stick to your schedule, and always follow the recommendations of your doctor to help maintain the strongest, healthiest you possible.

Maintain the strongest possible support team

No matter your circumstances, you can find hope and courage from having a steady support system in place. Your chronic illness will inevitably impact multiple areas of your life, and you may find yourself struggling to accept, and cope, with these changes and disruptions. When you are feeling weak and unable to go on, you will need to pull strength from others in your life.

Seek to assemble the best support team available to you. Reach out to trusted loved ones, and surround yourself with individuals who can help fill your life with optimism, laughter, and hope.

Distract yourself and seek positivity

It will not always be easy to find your “yes,” when your chronic illness is telling your body and mind “no,” and you may often feel like you are fighting a losing battle. In order to combat the feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness that can accompany chronic illness, it is essential to try and distract yourself from the negativity each and every day.

As much as you are able, fill your life with activities that can distract you from your pain. Travel, attend classes, take up new hobbies, visit with friends and family, get involved with your community, attend church activities, volunteer—do anything possible to raise your mood and to lift your spirits. The more vibrant, positive energy you can fill your days with, the greater power you will have over your chronic illness, and the more alive you will feel.

Strive to gain perspective and remain positive 

As you combat chronic illness, it can be extremely tempting to give into your negative thoughts, and spend time dwelling on things you cannot change. While it is okay to acknowledge the bad, and to wish your situation was different, self-pity and negativity will ultimately only leave you feeling worse. Strive to remain positive and to gain perspective on what’s happening.

Things may not be ideal, but they could always be worse—and chances are, you still have much to be thankful for. It may be helpful to keep a positivity journal, and to verbally express your gratitude to others daily. While you may indeed be limited by your illness, remain grateful for the abilities and opportunities you do have. Your attitude has the potential to make a world of difference, either for better or for worse.

Moving forward and finding hope 

Struggling with a chronic illness will change your life forever, and it is normal to feel afraid and uncertain of what may lie ahead. Remember that you never need to face this fight alone, and that you always have people and resources that can help you. If you are uncertain of how to find your “yes” in the midst of your suffering, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional today.

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Break the Link Between Chronic Illness and Loneliness

Posted by on Oct 25, 2014 in Chronic pain | 0 comments

The symptoms of chronic illnesses are extensive and varied: pain for some, numbness for others; exhaustion or unrelenting restlessness; bellyache, headache, muscle ache; shortness of breath, thundering heartbeat, dizziness.

There is one symptom that almost everyone struggling with a chronic illness shares: loneliness.

It may feel like an intentional piling on of unhappiness: Not only do you have the misfortune of developing a chronic illness but just when you need them most, the people you count on disappear from your life. There are a lot of reasons why this happens:

  • We’re all accustomed to short-term, intense illnesses like the flu. People who have it generally just want to be left alone to sleep and get better. When the illness doesn’t go away, your friends may not know how to respond.
  • The people who care about you want to do something meaningful, but can’t imagine how to make it better. Chicken soup isn’t very effective against cancer.
  • It’s painful to see someone we care about suffering when there’s no good outcome in sight.
  • The activities that drew you and your friends together in the past – hiking, dancing, travel, even eating out or going to a movie – may no longer be possible.
  • You have entered a foreign land that the people from your previous life don’t inhabit. Your interests are different now and a gulf stretches between you. Friends from work still care deeply about the new soda machine; you have other interests.
  • Whatever your relationship was before, it’s inevitably unbalanced now. Your friend has the power to do, to come or go, to take charge. To some degree, you no longer have that power.
  • Your illness has its own agenda and even when you are able to make plans with a friend, you may have to cancel at the last minute, over and over.
  • It can be frankly, selfishly, tiresome for your friends to spend time with you when you aren’t up to being fun and can’t reciprocate as you used to.

Not fair, not fair, but understandable that you can’t count on your old support network. You probably have a few friends or family members who will hang in, and bless them, but you’re likely to find yourself with lots of empty hours to contemplate your new reality. It’s important that you summon the energy and courage to make that change. A recent survey from the Ohio State University College of Medicine revealed that loneliness can disrupt your immune system, produce inflammation, and give viruses an opportunity to flare.

Some of the steps that may help:

  • Join social networks on the Internet. If chatting by text doesn’t fill the void in your life, move on to Skyping or phone conversations. Or, go old school and exchange letters and photos with new friends.
  • Find a support group where you can chat with the people who will understand best what you’re dealing with.
  • Write a blog about your experiences and feelings. Feel free to write honestly; you can limit readers to those who will understand.
  • Don’t be shy to ask friends for what you need; chances are at least some of them are just waiting for a clue about how to be helpful.
  • Set limits. Your friends may feel overwhelmed by what they imagine you want from them. Ask for a half-hour visit once a week and they may be much more willing to make that limited commitment.
  • Explain to your friends how important they are to you. They may feel that you’re worn out by medical appointments and visits from other friends.
  • If you’re physically able, consider a pet. There’s nothing like the unconditional affection from a small friend to pick you up when you feel alone with your illness.
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