Living with a chronic illness is harder than most breakups, losses, and farewells. Imagine a heartbreak, and then imagine going through it every day for the rest of your lives. Eventually, no amount of ice cream or consultations are enough. Such is the life of a patient of chronic illness. A whirlpool of pain and stress.
Now have you ever heard someone tell a patient with a chronic illness that ‘it’ll all be okay, just be positive’? I know it sounds insensitive, clichéd, and annoys you to the core but the truth is, staying positive IS the key to living better.
As much as I hate to say it, this insensitive, clichéd and annoying “stay positive and everything will be fine” is very much the mantra you need to stick to if you are suffering from a chronic illness. It can be difficult for people who are chronically ill to maintain an optimistic outlook. The illness is frightening and forces them to tackle uncertainty, a lack of control and constant surrendering to doctors. In other words, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. I know how it feels to be constantly at war with yourself over not being able to carry out the simplest of tasks sometimes, but it’s no use beating yourself up about it. It’s NOT your fault, and it certainly won’t help with keeping your positivity levels up.
Despite my days controlled by a chronic illness, I am able to put myself together, take charge of my emotions and maintain a positive outlook by doing the following:
1: Recognizing Progress, Even Baby Steps!
Yes, baby steps. I’m saying that because often progress takes time and even the most insignificant of steps can be crucial to get to the finish line.
Dealing with a chronic illness is like going on a long and slow journey, that too unfortunately with no shortcuts. That’s why it’s important to celebrate those improvements- and I genuinely mean with a balloon and cake, if that’s your thing!
Rather than wrestling with the little things, look beyond them and appreciate your victories no matter how small they may seem. You deserve to give yourself a pat on the back every night because you made it through the day be it good or bad. Slow progress is still progress!
2. Finding The Good In The Bad
It’s easy to go down the path of “why me” or “what should I be grateful for”. You have a chronic illness, and it’s okay to be distraught by it. It’s not something that will go away overnight.
Unfortunately, us chronically ill humans can’t sing praises of our health but what we can do is learn to appreciate the good things in life we still have. I know… I know… It’s easier said than done but it isn’t impossible. It could be something as simple as “I’m not well but I have a super supportive family” or “I’m ill but I can still indulge in my favourite cheese burger” or whatever adds a little sunshine to your day. The point is the more you let your illness control your life the more difficult it will seem to maintain positive thoughts when sick.
Training your mind to stay positive with chronic illness requires dedication and hard work but once you’ve mastered this skill, you, my friend will start to feel a whole lot better. Though it may seem forced to begin with overtime you’ll see it come naturally and you’ll find yourself doing it subconsciously.
3. Invest Time In Yourself
TRUST ME, DO THAT.
No matter how busy you may be during the day, you’re never too busy to spend some time doing the things you enjoy. Let’s be honest lazying around on the sofa all day isn’t going to cure your illness so why not spend some time doing something that makes you happy?
Life is too short to not grab every opportunity by both hands! Make time for things that bring you joy. Whether it’s stopping by at your favorite coffee shop once a week or dancing barefoot in the rain or watching Spongebob because it reminds you of your childhood – make time for it!
Unfortunately, positive thoughts don’t just appear out of thin air and they can’t be bought from the supermarket either. You have to work towards them and it’s really not as difficult as it sounds. Happiness and positivity go hand in hand so the more time you spend doing the things you love the easier it’ll be to maintain a positive outlook.
4. Embrace Sadness
Let’s be real, constant positive thinking during illness is unrealistic. Everyone has those days where they just want to curl up in a ball and let the waterworks loose. It’s NORMAL! You are allowed to hate your illness and you are allowed to be angry about it. Sometimes to feel better you have to feel worse (say whaaat?)
Often family and friends try to overly encourage positive thinking during illness and though they hold good intentions, unintentionally they may be pressuring us into acting cheery when we may not want to. It’s important not to conceal how you really feel because eventually all those unacknowledged feelings will build up and explode in an unhealthy manner.
Now that’s a sight no one wants to see…
Sometimes there’s nothing anyone can say to make us feel better – and sometimes it feels good to be sad. Everyone deals with emotions in their own way. There’s no rule in any book that states you can’t maintain a positive mindset whilst allowing yourself 5 emotional minutes in the day. So jump into your pajamas, grab a movie, popcorn, box of tissues and breath. You’ll feel much better when it’s all over.
5. Stay Optimistic
Living with a chronic illness is not easy. You never expect it to happen to you and when it does you’re left with a million questions running through your mind. Often, these questions are better left unanswered, so instead, we should look at the future with hope.
Remember that staying positive is the key to overcoming any hardship, let alone challenges like living with chronic diseases.
So stay strong, stay positive and lead a better life.
What say? Are you ready?