Coping with Chronic Illness

Any  illness lasting longer than one year is considered chronic and include illnesses like heart disease, diabetes,   kidney disease, asthma, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone, Parkinsons, to name just a very few. Mental health issues also come under the same banner.  All of these illnesses can cause a drastic change in one’s lifestyle and are an on-going challenge to the sufferer. They interfere with employment prospects, relationships, independence, happiness, self-esteem, and may totally disrupt normal living.

People who suffer chronic illness have to deal with the effects on the body, mind and emotions. It can escalate low spirits, depression, isolation and every day can be a constant struggle. Many feel angry at having to suffer never- ending restrictions, the loss of their health and wellbeing and go through the recognised stages of grief and loss. Any form of disability that is life-changing  escalate negative feelings and often people suffer in silence because of the stigma that surrounds their disability.

Dealing with chronic illness is stressful for those who are carers within the family and who feel they are also powerless, as well as the sufferer. For families, the adjustment can be difficult, with perhaps changes in income, socialising, being  grounded  and fear for the future. This is where knowledge and being actively involved, asking questions, researching the internet for articles pertaining to the disability, all alleviate some of the  mystery that surrounds  chronic illness and the drugs  used and  their side effects. Never be afraid to ask questions and express your opinion to the medics who are in charge. When you accept a disability and its limitations it allows you to plan and this can make life easier on everyone involved in the care plan. Keeping the sufferer informed of any changes, new drugs coming on stream, household plans, holiday or respite plans, all ease the fear that the sufferer is enduring and allows them to be part of the discussion and decision-making.

Research shows,  and medics agree, that those with faith and live a prayerful life have less stress, as well as fewer symptoms.  Being grateful to the people who support you and acknowledging their assistance, determines the overall attitude that is reciprocated. Generally people will respond positively and be more helpful when the sufferer retains their sense of  humour.   When people remain good humoured in spite of their disability it makes life easier for all concerned.  Resilience and keeping a positive attitude always pays off.  Search for your strengths and motivate yourself to achieve the best results and doing every little chore that you are able to do, will always enhance how you feel.

Chronic sickness,  with its limitations, eat away at your self confidence and the sense of hope needed for the future. Every medication and drug taken have side effects, many lead to depression amongst other added problems. There are many ways that help overcome the barriers  that you encounter, like listening to music, exercising, reading, deep breathing and meditation. Writing an everyday journal or other stories also have great benefit and  is beneficial in passing the time in a fruitful way.  Spending quality time with family, friends who care,  and the feeling of being wanted and loved as a person, always help.

Taking time to adjust  and accepting the reality of having a sickness that is long-term may have serious implications for financial, social and future years and requires skills and patience to achieve that adjustment. When you are first diagnosed with an incurable disease you feel vulnerable, confused and worried. When life seems unfair—which of course it is— sadness, fear, disappointment and anger are all normal reactions and are difficult to deal with.  Those who are close and caring may be the butt of unintentional anger and frustration.  Developing resilience will eventually allow you to return to be the person you aspired to be before  being struck down.

Family members may have to endure disturbed sleep, fatigue, an inner pain, anxiety, irritability, tension, worry  and  need much patience to adjust to their changed lifestyle also.  Minimize stress by getting rid of unnecessary obligations, surround yourself with positive people and accept their help, however small. Keep in touch with friends and take time out for yourself. If friends offer to take the sufferer out for an afternoon,  be grateful and accept gratiously.  Keep your spirituality nurtured by prayer and sacred readings and asking your higher power to help you in your unenviable task.  Have courage to adapt to changes and to lifestyle. It is a daunting experience to watch a loved one  endure a disability that change life and one of great challenge on the physical and emotional psyche.  Perseverance in keeping life as normal as possible is essential. Caring and sharing is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling way to live your life and any sacrifices made will  be eventually rewarded no matter how difficult the situation.