Emotional Dimensions of Autoimmune Disease: Living With Chronic Illness
Cancer, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome): every year, an ever-increasing number of people are being diagnosed with these and many other serious conditions, resulting in thousands of people living with chronic illness often for many years.
A chronic disease is one lasting 3 months or more, and sometimes there may not be a cure for a person’s long-term poor health condition and body’s malfunctioning. Many people touched by chronic illness are likely to struggle with it throughout their entire lives. Additionally, many chronic illnesses are difficult to diagnose which, in extreme cases, can be a matter of life or death and at best inadequate or poor treatment.
‘I feel like someone is crushing all the bones in my leg, and my entire body is on fire.’
‘My veins felt full of fuel that had been ignited.’
Above are two testimonials of people struggling with chronic illness. Undoubtedly, living with such a condition is one of the most demanding challenges humans experience, both in terms of physicality and mentality. Suffering from chronic illness impacts life in ways that healthy people cannot really imagine. It can be scary, frustrating, isolating, and continually painful.
At this point, the words of wisdom in the Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Whilst it is essential to ensure one has the correct diagnosis, there are many approaches to chronic pain as shown in the videos.
But apart from such clinical interventions, there are many other options that will help support you if you are living with chronic illness.
- At a local level, most GP practices will be able to offer various coping strategies, often as a result of meeting the social prescriber/link worker attached to the practice.
- The NHS suggests 10 ways to reduce pain
- For a huge dose of inspiration, check out Kelly Swain’s story. She was in so much pain and distress that she came close to killing herself with lethal concoctions of meditation and alcohol. But she managed to turn her life around by understanding the power of the mind and using holistic therapies.
Let’s look at some common emotional strategies for anyone living with chronic illness, always remembering the Serenity Prayer…
Accept What You Can’t Change
Almost any of the religions known to humans repeat this mantra, just in different words. Fighting the unchangeable leads to nothing more than stress, frustration, angriness, and even aggression.
When faced with a situation of no solution, people tend to fight against it anyway blindly. It stands to reason at the beginning. Sometimes stubbornness and perseverance work miracles, but sometimes they become an inexhaustible source of toxic hope.
Once you realise the disease may here to stay with you forever, or at least a long time, you should accept that fact. It will probably be a complicated, timely, and unpleasant process, full of ‘why me’ questions. However, once the mental change occurs, patients are likely to regain or even develop a more reliable, positive attitude towards life.
Creating and cultivating a deep understanding of the world the way it is and getting rid of the need to change it, is something that many people never truly experience.
If you are sick with a chronic disease, treat it as a blessing in disguise, and a rare chance to candidly accept things as they are.
Embrace Social Support
The first and foremost rule to always remember when suffering from a chronic disease is that you are not alone. Apart from medical professionals, there are at least two other groups of people who wish to help you and support you: other sick people, and your loved ones.
People touched by illnesses try to do as many things on their own as they can. It is a way of dealing with the world’s cruelty and an attempt to make things as they were done before. That kind of attitude is excellent if it is not exaggerated and dragged to the limits.
Keep in mind that accepting help is showing strength, not weakness. It means you are aware that doing some tasks is just too difficult, and you accept it. The assistance of others may be hard to take at first, but once done, it comes with numerous benefits. It builds genuine relationships based on mutual understanding and improves the quality of your life.
If you do not want to overwhelm the beloved ones with the emotional difficulties that come with the disease, finding a support group that is specific for your illness may be a good idea. No one will understand you better than people who experience the same.
You can normally find a local support group via a local search, your local council or local voluntary association.
Listen to Your Body
Listen to your body and let yourself be. If you feel like today is not your day, it probably isn’t. Don’t push yourself too much. Remember, nothing speeds the healing process better than a healthy mindset.
The more you punish yourself because you can’t do some things, the more tension, and negative feelings you create, bringing no more than unnecessary stress and a sense of being overwhelmed.
Enjoy the days when you feel perfect and relax on the days your body needs some extra time to recover.
Living with chronic illness comes with many obstacles and is no piece of cake. It is vital to get the most out of what you can to live a satisfying life. Enjoying the help of other people, listening to your body, and accepting reality as it is, are some of the most common and efficient ways to do so.