There are a multitude of chronic illnesses in the world, from diabetes to M.E. And while we’re making strides in finding a cure for many of these, we may be ignoring one aspect of these disorders…mental health. A chronic illness has many components to it that may contribute to anxiety and depressions, from not knowing what’s going to happen day-to-day to having to deal with not having enough support through friends or family. Lack of progress in treating symptomology or not knowing how long certain side effects are going to be part of your life can trigger potential anxious or depressed thoughts.
Per the American Psychological Association (APA), the best way to deal with the emotional side of a chronic disease requires an approach that is “realistic but positive.” What that means for you may mean something different for others. A therapist can help with this approach, but there are a few other ideas that the APA suggest:
1. Stay connected. If you can find supportive friends and family. If they are not around, search for support groups, or at the very least go online as you can find many support forums.
2. Take care of yourself. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help or to push if you aren’t getting the care you need. You won’t be seen as a hypochondriac if you are feeling symptomology and need some help. Eat well, exercise if you can and find time for yourself.
3. Maintain a routine. When depression hits, the first thing that goes are pleasurable activities or even those you might do on a daily basis. Get up, do errands, go to work, go to the gym…just do.
I have several friends who have chronic illnesses. One has dedicated herself to finding a cure by working in a lab that focuses on her disease. She does Crossfit and runs. And she tries her darndest to maintain a normal life. Another friend found humour as her way to deal with some of the toughest aspects of her illness. She’s gone so far as to write a book called “Prescription for Disaster: the funny side of falling apart” (which is also available in the US). It doesn’t matter how you choose to make your way through life with a chronic disorder or disease as long as you keep moving forward. It’s not easy but as others have shown, it is doable.