Having a long-term, or chronic, illness can disrupt your life in many ways. You may often be tired and in pain, your illness might affect your appearance or your physical abilities and independence, you may not be able to work, and etc. For children, chronic illnesses can be frightening, because they may not understand why this is happening to them.
These changes can cause stress, anxiety, and anger. If they do, it is important to seek help. A trained counselor can help you develop strategies to regain a feeling of control. Support groups might help, too. You will find that you are not alone, and you may learn some new tips on how to cope.
Temporary feelings of sadness are expected, but if these and other symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks, you may have depression. Depression affects your ability to carry on with daily life and to enjoy work, leisure, friends, and family. The health effects of depression go beyond affecting your moods—depression is a serious medical illness with many symptoms, including physical ones such as aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause, which may not ease even with treatment
Some days you may be tempted to pretend you never received your diagnosis. However, facing your diagnosis head on is the best way to cope. This was evident in a study of women with breast cancer, which found women who felt resigned to their fate were psychologically less well adjusted three years later, compared to women who actively confronted their diagnosis.
Another study, also of women with breast cancer, found those who sought social support and used active coping strategies — such as developing a plan of action — reported more inner peace and satisfaction with life two years later, compared to women who tended to deny or avoid their diagnosis.
How can you actively face your illness? A good place to start is by writing down all of your questions and taking them to your physician to discuss. Ask your doctor what specific steps you can take to optimize your health. Accurate knowledge can help you feel empowered.
Also, try to manage the elements in your life that are within your control. You may not be able to control certain aspects of your disease, but you can choose to eat healthy meals, take medications as prescribed and spend less time with people who aren’t supportive.
Minimize stress by letting go of unnecessary obligations. You may be able to take time off from volunteer commitments, for instance, or ask for more help from family and friends. Build a strong support network you can rely on, and communicate with them about how they can best help you manage your disease.
Illness can be stressful for an entire family. It’s not unusual for couples to experience strain on their relationship. Try to see things from the other’s perspective and keep the lines of communication open. If you have children, plan for some alone time with your partner. Also encourage your partner to make time to care for themselves, especially if they are your primary caregiver.