Chances are, if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, like myself, you have suffered from symptoms for some time, possibly even years. In order to be deemed “Chronic” the symptoms must have been present for at least 6 months for a Medical Professional to give this label. I have managed intense symptoms from Chronic Fatigue for over three and a half years and as a result, there are many things I’ve learned and wished that someone would have told me at the beginning. Here are a few:
You will be scared.
At least for a while and this is so normal. Your body is so different and your struggles are harder, and your overall well-being is now compromised. Your life has drastically changed and you do not know how to act like you once could. Your work, relationships, and how you feel in your body have changed and there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with being chronically ill. You might think you will always feel horrible and that you will never live a “normal” life again. While it’s true you might not live a “normal” life, you can still live an extraordinary life and one that brings you at first, and I urge you to feel this fear. Suppressing it will stagnate that energy in your system. Give yourself permission to feel scared when you feel scared. Seeking out social support for chronic illness from others who understand your struggles is key. Give yourself permission to feel hopeful. Join a chronic pain forum and talk to others who are dealing with it. I can honestly say that despite the physical limitations I experience every day, I am happy now. The only way to move through the fear and into hope is to allow yourself to feel it when it arises. Getting support from others who can listen and confirm your feelings and experience is incredibly healing in itself.
Be open to alternative solutions and different ways of healing.
In 2013, I was initially diagnosed with the H3N2 Flu in early. I assumed I’d be off work, the gym, socializing and my normal routine for about a week and then back to business as usual. Absolutely not. As days went on from my initial diagnosis, I got physically worse and even developed new strange clusters of symptoms that are now considered a Chronic illness. Initially, I had to leave my job and move back in with my parents (luckily they are very supportive). After way too many painful medical tests, my doctor diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue and was unable to offer me much help. I wasn’t going to give up, so I opened my mind and sought very different forms of treatment. Please be open-minded, I know you don’t want to feel physically horrible all or most of the time. And just because a Doctor says there is nothing they can do to help you, does not mean there aren’t effective treatments that you can benefit from. I sought out a Shaman, Energy workers, Naturopathic Doctors, tried Reiki, many natural supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation and I work with a very talented Medical Intuitive. I studied the mind/body/soul connection, the Chakra systems, and how suppressed emotions, thought patterns and past experiences affect our physical bodies. With the help of many practitioners along the way and my passion for healing, I’ve been able to basically bring myself back from the dead! Trying new modalities will open your world up to new experiences, new ways of healing yourself, and an overall sense of renewed well-being.
Develop a new and healthier relationship with yourself and others.
When living with chronic pain, your relationships with others and with yourself are going to change. In regards to relationships with others, you might find you need to speak up more about how your Chronic Condition affects your life, and you might have to let go of people who are unsupportive. This was a heart-breaking process for me. However, it makes room for healthier and more fulfilling relationships. In terms of your relationship with yourself, it’s so important to learn how our bodies now function and when they are shutting down, or when the symptoms are getting worse, and when they feel like they’ve let up a bit. You can learn to be conscious of your triggers and how your body responds to certain stimuli—whether that is lights, sounds, weather, foods, or even people. Know your limitations and accept them for the time being. As a recovering perfectionist, it was all too easy for me to berate myself and my body for not being able to do the things I once could, or as fast, or as efficiently. And I’m not even talking about running and working out here, I mean “simple” stuff like showering and getting dressed, standing, or even having the energy to interact with others. If you need to pace and take the extra time to rest throughout your activities, please do this. If you need to cancel plans, it’s okay. And please watch your self-talk. Celebrate your victories, talk to your body, and learn to find the blessings in your experiences. This is easier said than done, I know. I once watched a movie about a man who was paralyzed from the neck down. As I was washing my hands one day that man’s life experience popped into my head, and I felt such gratitude that I still had two hands, and the ability to wash them for myself. Start small, and thank your body for what it can do. It listens and responds well to this.
I sincerely hope these words help. I know they would have helped me when I was first diagnosed, and I understand that my experiences were designed in such a way as to rearrange my life to get on the correct path. The daily physical and emotional challenges are still present, but I’ve shifted my perspective, and the joy that comes from living more authentically are worth it.
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Sameena Khan is a Clinical Psychologist, Writer, Holistic Lifestyle Consultant, and Alchemist. Her work involves helping others explore and work through their psychological, emotional, physical, and overall energetic blockages in order to live a healthier and more joyful life. Sameena was diagnosed with a Chronic Health Condition in 2013 and now also focuses on helping others manage their symptoms and live happy lives.