08 Mar Chronic Conditions and Your Emotions
What a shock you may feel when you first learn you have a chronic disease, or realize you have a chronic disability – “chronic” meaning that it goes on and on for more than a year.
There may be nothing that can explain why you developed the condition, or perhaps you were exposed to something that caused or contributed to your disease, or maybe the illness runs in your family.
Be sure not to fall into the trap of ruminating about possible causes, or blaming yourself for the condition. It’s far better to show some compassion for yourself, and move ahead rather than look back.
Adjusting over time
You may find yourself transitioning from shock and fear to feelings of anger because you have the illness or disability. You might feel sad or depressed because your way of life may have to change. You might also experience stress and anxiety about how to take care of yourself, or feel embarrassed or ashamed about your situation, or think that you are somehow not a whole person.
Such feelings will pass, as you learn as much as you can about the condition and gain experience living with your illness or disability, such as monitoring blood sugar and taking insulin if you have diabetes, or using some piece of equipment, or changing your lifestyle if you have a heart condition.
This self-management can also help you feel a greater sense of control over your life, increase your confidence about being able to live with the new situation, and give you a boost of hope towards the future.
Be kind to yourself
You may sometimes feel overwhelmed or angry at having to make adjustments to how you live, but be assured that you will get used to the new normal. Know that it takes time, and try to be patient with yourself as you learn new ways.
Making adjustments can also make you feel stressed, so be sure to do some things that relieve your stress and give you pleasure. This may mean taking a walk, meditating, reading a book, watching a movie (especially funny ones), going to a play or concert, or spending time with family members or a friend.
You might also feel less lonely if you connect with other people in the same situation as you. Even meditating or thinking about others in the world who share your condition can help you feel better and less alone.
Focus on the things you still can do. Be adaptable, and work within your limitations. Consider what you can learn from your experiences, and how they help you grow.
Accepting what is
Our greatest misery comes when what we want does not match our reality. The people who adapt well to a chronic condition tend to be those who accept their new reality for what it is, and learn how to live with it as best they can.
From time to time, you might feel a pang of envy as you see other people doing anything they want, without having to self-mange your condition as you have to do. You might still get angry once in a while, or feel unhappy and overwhelmed.
Note the envy or any other negative feelings that arise, and then let them go. You can’t change what life brings, but you have full control over how you respond to it. It also helps to let go of expectations, and focus on life as it is right now.
And remember that you are not your disease or disability. As the Arthritis Society says, “I have arthritis. It doesn’t have me.”
The Arthritis Society has helpful information about managing pain.