Adapting to chronic illness
*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
The disabled often say that those who are able-bodied, or just temporarily, so, that most of us, at some point in our lives will suffer from physical disability. Many of us believe in the old adage, stating that if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything. However, unexpected health changes can happen to any of us. Even without the health we may have formerly enjoyed our lives can continue to be rich and full – although perhaps different.
Our lifespans have increased enormously over the past century. Many of us live into our seventies, eighties, nineties, or longer. However, the rise in expected longevity brings with it the increased probability that we will suffer from one or more physical diseases during our lifetimes. The incident of heart disease, stroke, and cancer is high in Western societies. There is currently a diabetes epidemic that is associated with obesity due to diet and lack of exercise. Adults are more prone to developing diabetes, but an alarming number of children now experience type II diabetes. Many people develop immune deficiency diseases such as lupus. These diseases are often an outcome of lifestyle choices. Given the length of our lifespans, there’s a high probability that a health crisis will come into our lives at some point.
A chronic illness is one that persists over time without an easily definable beginning, middle and end. While the suffering that accompanies a chronic illness can usually be alleviated to some extent, the illness itself is usually not curable. Our society, and the medical establishment in particular, feels more comfortable in dealing with acute illnesses, those illnesses that can be treated and cured. This is easy to understand if we consider that society tends to value achievement, and action. We prefer to deal with diseases that have a distinct cause, treat them with medication, or other interventions, and then wait for the healing to begin. Chronic illnesses are not amenable to such quick fixes. They are conditions that we have to learn to live with. Lacking social support, the task of adapting to a chronic illness can be a major challenge.
Living with a chronic illness brings many issues to the fore. One of the primary experiences of those with chronic illness is the challenge of realizing that their lives have changed, often permanently. Not only do they have to deal with the many changes that the illness will bring to their lifestyle and future plans, but they have to deal with the difficulty. The illness presents to their loved ones, friends, and work associates. Other people fail to understand the disease, and suddenly treat the sufferer in a different way. Often through avoidance or superficial and uncomfortable support. The person with a chronic illness is sometimes seen as failing to contribute his or her fair share and work setting. The disruption to families can cause severe conflict because it upsets the normal balance and family dynamics.
If someone goes to the many phases of a chronic illness, they eventually end up in the final phase, the integration phase. The final phase is the culmination of the struggle that your chronic illness is brought into your life. You understand what you have been through and how you have grown from the experience. You know, now that you are a much wiser and more able person than you were before your illness. You understand that you may backslide, especially when the symptoms flare up again, but you have the tools now to get yourself back on course again. You have integrated your pre-crisis self into your current sense of self so that your life can be seen as a whole, And from that, you have a good sense of what your life means.
Did you know when the chronic illness began that you presented with a gift, a gift that could make your life enormously rich.