Being diagnosed with a chronic illness involves the loss of one’s identity and there is grief that comes with the loss. The intensity of emotional pain usually corresponds to how much your lifestyle is compromised. Small losses are frustrating, larger ones change your world as you know it and are difficult to accept. Both lead to stress.
Initially you may shield friends and family from the depth of your anger and fear. Consider, instead, periodic open honest heartfelt conversations which will allow connection to remain vital.
It is natural, when ill, to turn inward as you feel less than whom you once were; but with time it is critical that you turn outward once again, for your point of view is your primary tool to learning to tolerate incapacity.
While your body as well as your spirits may feel broken, ultimately you have to decide whether you’re going to be defined by your suffering or make it only a part of your life. If the latter is the case, consider what you might bring into your life to replace what you can no longer enjoy; consider what you can control that you don’t think you can (the difference is often in how we perceive our situation), and, lastly, have faith that you will be able to accept the loss of a certain amount of independence.
To accept your situation means living will a broken, but open heart and a deeper sense of compassion for yourself as well as others. On the other hand if you reject your disability, angry resentment and bitterness will be your steady companions. Which will it be?
On a piece of paper draw a road with a fork at the top. Name one fork Acceptance and the other fork Rejection. Under each heading write “what is possible” and “what is impossible.” Now ask yourself what is possible and what is impossible if I accept this illness and reconstruct my life? Next write down what is possible and what is impossible if I reject my illness and refuse to adjust. Which will it be?
While your body as well as your spirits may feel broken, ultimately you have to decide how you are going to integrate the illness into your life. If you cannot do certain activities, consider what you might bring into your life to replace what you can no longer do; consider what you can control; and, lastly, have faith that you will eventually be able to accept the loss of a certain amount of independence.
SEEKING MEDICAL HELP
- Seek a second opinion. So often we say “I trust my physician with my life” when we shouldn’t. Now is not the time to be concerned about hurting someone’s feelings.
- Consider taking an advocate with you to doctors’ offices – someone who can take notes and ask questions that you may forget to ask.
- Understand that medical facilities have a protocol they must follow; therefore, they cannot provide certain treatments you may want to consider. Different medical centers, different protocols.
- Seek out a hospital financial counselor who can tell you what costs to expect, what will be covered and what you might have to pay.
- Takes advantage of free resources that are provided by a medical facility.
- Consider researching established complementary/alternatives to your primary care such as acupuncture, nutrition, guided/imagery/hypnosis, massage, Therapeutic Touch, etc.
- Go onto the internet and explore websites. Become familiar with the latest research and treatment
- Strongly recommend:Mind-Body Stress Reduction started in 1979 at UMass General Medical Center. This is an evidence-based process supported by 25 years of incredible results. The success rate for chronic illness, anxiety and pain management is stunning. Research has also shown that the meditation they teach can reset natural set points for good versus bad mood. Courses are held in 250 hospitals nationwide and there are also many certified trainers around the country teaching classes. If you are not where you can take a class, purchase Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. 2009 or A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl, Ph.D. and Elisha Goldstein, PhD., which includes CDs to help non-meditators with the meditation process.
- Go online to www.hulu.com. Bring up favorite hilarious sitcoms. Dr. William Fry, one of the world’s leading researchers on humor, reports that medical science agrees that a powerful painkiller is activated during laughter, even though they have been unable to isolate what it is. In addition, there is evidence that laughter stimulates the immune system and exercises the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems by increasing heart rates and providing a more rapid air exchange (forcing carbon dioxide to be exhaled and fresh oxygen to be inhaled, feeding the body and brain, and raising the body’s temperature in much the same way as exercise).