Unless you or someone you’re close to have dealt with chronic illness, you likely don’t have a clue how debilitating it can be. Unfortunately, I can honestly say that I’m an expert at it. Among all of the horrible things that have happened, the worst thing for me has often been the inability to find consistency and balance in my emotions. One day I’d be up, and the next, I’d crash. Though I still deal with lesser forms of this some now, I have slain the beast that used to throw me around like a rag doll.
I have felt as though nothing would improve my situation at times. But I am quickly reminded of the power I have inside to change how I respond to each and every experience. And, I say this with resolve: it is possible to find emotional balance, dignity, and joy in any health situation. I didn’t say it has been easy, but with focus and clarity, I’ve truly understood that life isn’t happening to me but for me. Let me share with you some of the most important things I’ve learned over the years to stay emotionally balanced during chronic illness.
Love Yourself Unconditionally
Self-love isn’t the first thing that most chronically ill women think of as a way to feel better. In fact, I have many memories of abandoning and hating myself, cursing at my body parts while walking on a dark chronic illness path. It took me years of suffering to realize that my body, mind, and spirit deserve love and gratitude. When I figured this out, beautiful awareness filled my heart and I was able to hold my pain as if it was a small child. Because of this revelation, finding balance is so much easier because I shifted my perspective about my value as a human being. Honestly, I believe that chronic illness can show up because of a lack of self-love. That’s something to think about…
Learn About Your Condition
I highly recommend taking the time to learn about symptoms, the condition itself, and all options for treatment. This is crucial because walking into a doctor’s office without understanding your situation can be detrimental to your ability to heal, cope, and move forward. I learned a long time ago to not take everything the doctors say as “word”. Take full responsibility for your health and don’t leave it in the hands of anyone else. This means making informed decisions based on both facts and intuition.
I’ve spent hours researching and learning about the body and mind. This knowledge has served me well on many occasions with countless doctors. I’m not saying don’t listen to your doctor, just balance what you hear with your own gut feelings and other reputable sources of information.
Find the Right Provider
Finding the right provider is so crucial that I feel safe in saying that it can be a matter of life and death in some situations. It is vital that you feel listened to and taken seriously. Chronic illness and the sometimes plethora of symptoms that come with it are often not understood by doctors. This makes for a shit show, trying to explain that you are not crazy, a hypochondriac, or making it all up.
Do know that finding a provider may not be easy. I recommend asking your current healthcare team, and friends/family for referrals first. If that doesn’t reveal any potentials, you can try your local hospital, your insurance company, Medicare/Medicaid, Medicare extra help. I have struggled to find the appropriate doctors since I recently moved out of my home state and we are still in the pandemic. This is a whole other level of frustration and can cause unbelievable stress. I’ve had to really focus on letting people help me during times like this.
Speak About Your Emotional Health
It is important that you speak with your provider not just about your physical health but your emotional health too. They need to know how you’re feeling because coping with chronic illness can increase stress and create additional problems. Mental conditions like depression and anxiety can make it difficult for you to balance your mind and make good decisions for yourself. Your doctor might recommend medication, therapy, or both if the situation calls for it.
Additionally, do talk to your loved ones about what you’re going through and how it affects your daily life. Even if they live with you, they may not fully grasp the pain you’re feeling. This happens often when the chronic illness is an invisible one. You look and sound fine, but that’s far from the case on the inside. Tell them that the illness affects you in ways that aren’t always visible to others. If they don’t seem to understand, find some quality resources to explain your illness and help them support you better.
Allow Your Role Change
Know that it’s perfectly OK to let go of some normal activities in your life if the illness has changed your abilities. Chronic illness can easily shift priorities, especially if physical disability is at play. This experience calls for an even deeper sense of self-love to get through and support mental wellbeing. It’s important to grieve any loss you’ve experienced, such as hobbies, physical activity, travel, and socializing. These are things that if lost can make you feel lost and worthless. These feelings are valid. However, try to remember that we are all valuable no matter what illness wants to throw at us.
Define Your Support System
Having a quality support system throughout your illness is of utmost importance for several reasons. Physical limitations alone can create deficits in your home, especially if you’ve been used to doing everything. This is a crucial time to communicate your needs to your family and friends. Let them know what you need help with specifically. If you just want someone to talk to, spell it out clearly. If you need chores done, make a list and distribute it to those who can best support you in this way. Support groups can also help you understand that you are not alone.
Chronic illness is one of the most challenging experiences that anyone can go through. It presses you in ways that you can’t even imagine. Getting through tough times is not easy, but it’s worth trying your best to achieve emotional balance. Keep in mind, there are so many ups and downs associated with chronic illness. Balance might seem like an impossible task, but it’s not. It’s completely possible with focus, self-love, patience, and the right tools. I’m cheering for you to find the support and understanding you need on your journey. xo Kellie