Living with a chronic illness brings up a myriad of different emotions. It’s not uncommon to feel sadness, bitterness, resentment, helplessness and exhaustion. Research tells us that those living with chronic illness (and their loved ones) often experience the same cycles of grief that Kubler-Ross told us about: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. So how does one go about processing these emotions?
First, allow those emotions to come. Process them in a way that feels appropriate. Whether that’s journaling, counseling, meditation, prayer or a daily run. Be present with those emotions and look for healthy coping strategies.
Look for times when you feel successful in managing your illness. Identify those moments and look at the circumstances. What were you doing that made you feel successful? Was someone helping you manage your illness that day? Did you participate in a support group? Did you find someone going through a similar circumstance? Find those moments of success and look for ways to replicate them.
Get in community. Ask your healthcare provider or mental health professional about support groups, camps or other meetings where you and/or your loved one can find community with others who are experiencing the same or similar chronic illness.
Educate yourself with boundaries. We now have access to so much information which is wonderful. Educating yourself about your condition from reputable healthcare providers and websites can help alleviate questions and some fears you may be experiencing. Pay attention to your body and notice when it is “information overload” and time to take a break. This is key in setting boundaries with all of the information available.
As someone who lives with a chronic illness and is the parent of a child with chronic illness, I can attest to the day to day challenges that come with a chronic illness. I think it’s key to find what works for you and your family.