Living With Chronic Illness: 5 Tips for the Newly Diagnosed
“Just keep doing what you are doing.” That is exactly what I was recommended to do by my neurologist 25 years ago when I asked him what I could do to help myself with multiple sclerosis. This diagnosis was crushing. Living in a new city, London, and after starting training as a Chartered Accountant, I thought the world was an oyster, with multiple pearls waiting for me to pluck them. This new element in my life cruelly took this oyster away from me and replaced it with a barren landscape of unending sand. Shifting, unsettling and blinding me with its storms.
The first months
In the space of a few short months, the sensation in my hands was numbed and replaced with pins and needles, making everything feel like sandpaper. My walking had become slow and labored as my right leg felt like it was walking in a fast flowing river, and my left leg was unfettered. Every morning when the alarm pulled me from my nine hours of sleep, I crawled out of bed. The fatigue of MS making every movement a Herculean effort. The tears of anger, the rage of impotence and the fog of not knowing what new symptom would attack me was making work a challenge that became impossible. It was crap. I was losing everything that I had studied for and aspired to.
How can you make it easier?
This is the reality of what faces you when you get a diagnosis of a chronic illness. The symptoms will be different, but the emotions will be there. Fear, anger and sadness are the three main emotions for me. Unfortunately, these can make you feel worse. They can push you into a place of depression and despair. In the months and years since this, I have learned some lessons that can help you take back control of your life. To once again help you feel like you are the master of your destiny.
Here are five tips to help you adjust to your chronic illness:
- Master your illness, otherwise, it will become your Master. Learning about your illness will help you understand what is happening to you, and could also help you plan for the future.
- Be healthy. Looking after your physical health is even more important now – a healthy diet, exercise and drinking water can all help your body fight your disease.
- Look after your mental health. This is a time of transition and it will require a mental toughness that can be very difficult to achieve. Seek professional help, meditate and journal.
- Get support. Don’t try to take this journey alone. Seek professional advice, and if possible, share your fears with family and friends.
- Adjust to the new normal. Your life has changed and trying to be the person you were before you became sick can lead to frustration, sadness and anger. Accept where you are, and be grateful for all that you have. This is difficult to do, but worth the effort.
This is what has helped me. Let me know what you do, or what you are thinking of doing to help you adjust to your chronic illness. Please comment below, and please share.
This story originally appeared on A 30 Minute Life.