Whether you have been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness, have been diagnosed for some time, or have a loved one with a chronic illness, you know firsthand that chronic illnesses go far beyond their physical implications- they can completely complicate one’s mental health and how they view themselves. It can be devastating to have to hold back from previous passions, to lose physical and mental stamina, and it can be very daunting to try and envision what the future holds. We understand how much pain a diagnosis can bring and would like to offer our advice for helping you accept and cope with this new chapter. Most importantly, we hope that you take away that, although your life will look very different from how it once did, you are still capable of and worthy of having a fulfilling and joyful life.
- Allow yourself time to grieve and accept your diagnosis. Be kind to yourself and accept any and all feelings that arise, never forgetting the strength you have simply for trying to find yourself again.
- Accept the things you cannot change and stay courageous in changing the things you can.
- Create goals and a routine for yourself that uplift you mentally and physically. These can be smaller goals, such as getting at least an hour of sunlight a day, “picking up” the house each day, or meeting up with a friend every week. Bigger goals could include giving up smoking or sticking to a workout routine that works for you (there are even light exercises you can do in bed!)
- It is key to adjust expectations for yourself, adjust aspects of your life to make them more manageable, and to find meaning and purpose in the things you can
- Become more aware of any negative self-talk. Try to avoid telling yourself things like, “This is hopeless”, or ridding yourself of opportunities because you do not think you are capable. Take on a “realistically optimistic” perspective, which may look like, “This new goal or issue will be harder to take on than it once was, but I know that I will adjust and adapt by doing _____”.
- Lean into your friends and family and look for community. There are various support groups in the area for different chronic illnesses, as well as online communities (there are many right here on Facebook!)
- Set boundaries with loved ones. Friends may not initially understand that your diagnosis could shape how often you are able to see them, or family members may unknowingly become overbearing and stifle your independence. Voice your opinions and expectations so that you can continue to have healthy relationships.
- Do not fear asking for or accepting help. There is nothing shameful about needing more help than you once did, and those who care for you are more than happy to help however they can. If you ever feel embarrassed, ask yourself, “Would I judge someone else if they asked for my help in this situation?”, and I would guarantee that your answer would be “Of course not!”.
We wish you the best of luck in the journey that lies ahead and are confident that you have the strength to continue to do amazing things!