When you're living with chronic illness, it can dramatically impact your quality of life.
You may feel limited in terms of your ability to work, do household activities, be a parent or caregiver.
You may feel that you're letting others down by having to back out of commitments.
You may feel that you're not good enough because you can't do what other people seem to be able to do so easily.
However, it is possible to live well with chronic illness.
Don't Let Your Condition Define You
While you may identify with someone who has a particular illness or condition, don't let it define who you are as a person. If you're not sure who you are, sit down and journal on it.
Odds are you are many things to many people.
Our society tends to place a great deal of focus and value on productivity and wealth. That can make people who aren't able to work full time, or work at all, feel they are lesser than.
But just because our society says it's the most important thing, doesn't mean it is.
You have a lot to offer, beyond just what you do to fill your day.
Maybe you make people laugh, or you're compassionate and caring.
Maybe you're a good cook, or an excellent pet parent.
Maybe you've intelligent and are great at sharing knowledge with others or coming up with new creative ideas.
Maybe you're a talented artist or musician.
Remember who you are as a person inside, and remind yourself every day that you are so much more than your illness or your day filler.
Ask for help
If you are someone who has always been quite independent, but you are finding that you aren't able to do the things you used to do, it may feel quite difficult to ask for help. You may feel ashamed, but the truth is, the people that care will be happy to help you.
In fact, for many people, helping others makes them feel good and they truly enjoy it. Start with something small. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but asking for help is a sign of strength.
Living with a chronic illness can feel all consuming. It can be hard not to worry about the "what ifs" and feel that other people just don't understand.
Whether you join a support group for people with your condition, have regular coffee dates with a friend you trust, or seek counselling, seeking support is critical for your mental health.
When you feel heard and understood, it also helps your body heal.
Redefine your new "normal"
Maybe you used to work full time and now you spend most of your time at home, or maybe you used to spend all day minding the children on your own, without any help and very little time to rest or care for your own needs.
When you're living with a chronic illness something has to give; you need to define your new "normal" and adjust your routine so that your body doesn't suffer from pushing it beyond it's means. Just like anyone else, you deserve a good quality of life.
This may mean working part time instead of full time, asking for a loved one for to watch your children for the afternoon while you rest, or investing in treatments to help your body feel better such as massages.
You may need more sleep, or to eat differently than you used to, and that's ok. Listen to your body and try to honour its needs for rest and nourishment.
Whatever your new "normal" looks like, it's ok; don't let comparison with others, or other people's judgement make you feel less-than. You are simply honouring your body's needs and doing what is best for you.
For some people that have a lot of responsibilities such as running a business or someone who is an employee and expected to work overtime, setting boundaries is critical. Be firm and confident that this is what you need (no explanation needed) and that you would appreciate their understanding. This may look like having strict working hours of 9 to 5 or as a business owner, it may involve you asking a trusted employee to step up in your place when you're "off the clock" or on vacation.
Maybe you're a stay at home Mom, but your family or in-laws like to pop in unannounced. It's important to set boundaries here as well, as you shouldn't have to entertain family when you're not feeling well, and pushing yourself beyond your limits will make you feel even worse. Let them know you value spending time together, but that you enjoy it more when it's planned ahead of time so you can ensure you're feeling your best.
Setting boundaries helps you feel better both physically and emotionally. It can feel scary or awkward at first, but you'll find it gets easier with practice.
Listen to your body
In a society that honours fatigue and busy-ness as a badge of honour, it can feel almost rebellious, or make you feel guilty to honour your body's needs for rest, or unplugging from technology. And yet, it's critical for your health and mental wellness.
This is part of what finding your new normal entails; if you're finding you need a nap mid afternoon, then plan your day accordingly. If you're finding you need to rest on the weekend rather than going to visit friends, then honour that. You may feel guilty, but ultimately your body will thank you.
If you're finding living with a chronic illness is impacting your mental wellness, we are here to help. We have several clinicians who specialize in supporting people with chronic health conditions.
Book your intake call to get matched with the best clinician for your needs.