Helpful Hints

A Chronic Illness How to Guide

So, you found out you have a chronic illness or you’re experiencing symptoms you can’t make sense of, fear not. I am here to give you my best tips and tricks for surviving chronic illness. This starts with talking about appointments.

How to Advocate For Yourself
This is not something that came easy to me. It took about twenty appointments to get the hang of it but now I am confident going into 90% of my appointments. Be patient, you’ll get the hang of it. Start by listening and acknowledging when you’re getting defensive. Doctors will throw out ideas that may upset you. They can be frustrating or downright offensive. Most of the time, they’re not trying to be rude. Give them a little grace, but after listening, share with them your actual opinion. You don’t have to put on a brave face. These people are here to help you and that starts with honesty. Don’t go along with treatments you feel uncomfortable with but don’t close your mind off to new ideas either. It’s a difficult balance but you’ll find it in due time.

Once you feel comfortable going into your appointments, it’s time to start looking at daily life. Depending on your illness or it’s severity, you may need to start making adjustments. These will most likely surround your symptoms or your tolerance for them. This is scary to start. It’s okay to grieve and mourn the loss of a normal life but don’t get caught up in feeling sorry for yourself. There is always something to be grateful for.

How to Start Listening to Your Body
When you are first experiencing symptoms or illness, it’s difficult to get a handle on what is happening. It might feel like you’re falling apart. Listen to your body. I promise, your body is not falling apart. It may be malfunctioning in multiple ways but most likely a limb won’t pop off. If your heart is racing, sit down, don’t do what I did and stand there wondering why it’s doing that. Trust me, it’s a bad idea and will likely result in passing out or a blood pressure drop. I don’t know what you’re going through but sit down and do a body scan. What I mean by this is go from your head down and identify what is hurting or asking for attention. Then write your symptoms down, so when you go to the doctor you know what to tell them. If you struggle with being too aware, skip this step, it will likely result in a worsening of symptoms or anxiety. 

If you have started to write down symptoms and identify what is ailing you, congratulations. This is the first step in getting help. For months, all I could say was, I’m dizzy and my heart is racing. That didn’t get me anywhere and treatment for this took forever. When I started to identify and connect the dots, doctors were able to use their knowledge in my favor. I’m still the outlier to most conditions but nonetheless, we’re on the right track. Finally, thank your body for what it’s doing right.

How to Be Grateful For What You Have
This doesn’t come easy to anyone. It’s difficult to shift focus off of what is going wrong but it’s important to understand what is going right. Today, I wrote that I was grateful I can walk. Some days, walking is a significant struggle but today it is not. When I’m having a flare in my allergies, it can be difficult to breathe and swallow, today I can do both. These may seem like nothing but when you stop and appreciate them, you realize how monumental they can feel. 

These tips are things that will make life easier.  They won’t take away your chronic illness. It’s important to remember that this time period will not last forever. Eventually, you will find a groove and things will even out. What I mean is, life won’t stay turbulent for long. Things will eb and flow. It’s okay to be fine one day and not the next. Life is not stagnant. You will learn about yourself, grow into who you’re meant to be, and cope with your illness. Don’t doom yourself into a fate of despair and depression. It’s okay to feel depressed or sad but don’t stay there for very long. I promise, no matter what you’re facing, you can get through it. Attitude is everything. If you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t. If you believe you can thrive despite anything that may happen, you will go so far in life. Chronic illness may be apart of you, but don’t let it define you. 

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