When you are given a diagnosis of a chronic condition, you may feel a sense of relief that the symptoms and pains you have been experiencing have finally got a name. After all, it gives you an opportunity to seek out appropriate treatments to alleviate your suffering. However, the realization that this is going to be a long road can give way to feelings of despair and anxiety, especially as you now recognize that the disruption to your and your family’s life is going to last longer than you initially anticipated.
There are approximately 117 million people in America who live with chronic illnesses. Some chronic illnesses persist continually whereas others are intermittent and cause issues sporadically. Whether you have chronic back pain from an accident, fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, living in pain can impact your life and prevent you from doing activities that you have always taken for granted.
How can you make a living with a chronic illness better?
There is usually a tendency to just carry on with life as best you can, but this can mean that you aren’t able to achieve and accomplish the things that you want to. Rather than being passive about your situation, you can be active in making your life better despite your illness.
- Specialist treatment
Just because your physician is unable to provide you with pain relief does not mean that others who specialize in pain treatment won’t be able to help. Pain treatment centers are expert in identifying the root cause of your discomfort and can give you treatment and advice on how to alleviate your pain specifically, rather than taking a generalist approach. Taking early action is key to treating your pain before it escalates. You deserve to be as pain-free as possible.
- Home adaptions
You may find that you can adapt your home to make life easier for you. There may be simple things that you can do like removing furniture from rooms to make mobility easier or rearranging the kitchen cupboards so that you don’t have to bend down or reach up to access items. Changing your bathroom into a wet room may assist you in being able to take care of your personal grooming independently or installing a chair lift to help you with the stairs can positively impact how you live. Rather than seeing the need to modify your home as a defeat, consider how, with a few tweaks, you will be able to resume some of the activities that you have been unable to perform.
- Emotional Support
You can also seek support to manage stress and the emotional side of living with a long-term and chronic illness. There a few people better equipped to advise you on tips and techniques than people who are living with the same condition.
Support groups: Support groups provide a safe and open space to discuss and share about living with your condition. They are a protective environment that will give you the opportunity to speak frankly about your stresses, coping mechanisms, and achievements. If there aren’t any local groups that you can attend, there are a wealth of forums online that can support you and offer advice.
Counseling: You may benefit from one-on-one counseling to help you come to terms with your change in circumstance. There are counselors who specifically deal with people who have chronic illnesses, and similar to seeking pain specialists, these chronic illness counselors are fully licensed and expert in helping you effectively express your emotions. You can also access counselors who can work with the whole family too.
It can be a good idea to write in a journal about how you are feeling. Writing is a therapeutic way to document how you are feeling emotionally and the physical symptoms of your condition. If you do this, you will be able to recognize patterns to your symptoms so that you can begin to identify what triggers flare-ups in your symptoms. This is useful so that you recognize your limits, but also to document any side effects that your medications may cause. You will be able to provide this information to your health care team so that they can adjust your medicines to reach a balance.
Now that you have a diagnosis you will be able to move forward. Research around your condition so that you can understand the implications that it may have for you and your family – but remember that people often write the worst-case scenarios and no two people have the same journey. It’s a scary time, but by seeking the best treatments that are available to you, relevant support from friends, family, and others with a similar situation, you will be equipped to cope with your new life.