Living with Illness. Understanding the Problem

At one time or another, everyone experiences illness. But with time and appropriate care, most illnesses go away as the body heals. When an illness or condition develops and doesn’t go away it can be devastating to the person suffering its effects. In addition to dealing with the physical symptoms, the emotional shock and pain associated with being diagnosed with a chronic condition only serves to compound it.

Once the initial emotions and concerns surrounding the diagnosis of a chronic condition begin to subside, the process of learning to understand, accept and deal with the illness can begin. The process of doing so is not one that occurs overnight. But slowly working toward taking an active part in self-care helps many people suffering with chronic illness to feel better equipped to deal with the situation and engage in the life that’s going on around them.

Understanding the Diagnosis

Although it’s possible to logically understand the diagnosis of a chronic condition when it’s given, understanding and accepting it on an emotional level can take much longer. The realization that life is changing, subtly or drastically, results in feelings of loss. Similar to other situations involving loss, it’s common for those recently diagnosed with chronic illness to go through a mourning period. Feeling this way is perfectly normal and it’s important to work through and express those emotions, rather than trying to keep them inside.

As more is learned about the chronic condition and the person begins to understand how their life will be affected, it’s common to mourn lost abilities, independence and many of the little things taken for granted in life. Small things, such as taking an evening walk through the park, suddenly becomes a huge and often painful thing when a person can no longer enjoy the activity. Those not affected by chronic illness might empathize with the situation, but can’t fully understand it, leaving the individual feeling isolated and misunderstood.

Regaining Some Control in Life

Finding appropriate support is an important part of processing the diagnosis of a chronic condition. While the support of a compassionate medical professional is vital, it’s also important for individuals to seek out other forms of support through family members, friends and chronic illness support groups. Many groups are available, both online and locally, to help support those dealing with specific chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or MS.

As the encouragement and wisdom of a supportive network helps individuals regain a stronger foothold, they can begin to start shifting their focus to include the positives in life, too. Even though chronic illness often leads to loss and sacrifice, it can also be the catalyst for discovering new interests and abilities. When a person reaches the point of wanting to find new ways to enjoy life, it can be an empowering moment as they realize that, with consistent care and support, they can find new strengths and adapt to the challenges with a capacity they never knew they possessed.

This is part two in a three-part series on Living with Illness.

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