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33 People With Chronic Illnesses Share the Best Advice They've Received

The most helpful emails in health
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When you’re sick, you undoubtedly hear tons of advice. “Just breathe.” “Relax.” “Think positive.” Sometimes these cliches work for you, and other times you just want someone to get real. We turned to our chronic illness community to share advice they’ve heard that actually helped them. We hope at least one of these strikes a chord with you.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Something you can do today, you might not be able to do tomorrow, and it’s OK… Just do what you can, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the things you can’t do.” — Linda Wilbur Scott

2. “You can decide to live your life anyway. It’s going to hurt whether you’re in bed or taking over the world. Don’t let this dictate your future.” — Manda Baca

3. “Learn how to advocate for yourself. You know your body and condition better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to speak up and push for better care; always do your own research.” — Carris Brown

4. “With some of the pain, you have to take it an hour at a time instead of a day at a time. Let the tears flow.” — Sharon Lambkin

5. “Accept help when offered. I’ve always been fiercely independent, wanting to achieve it all on my own two fee. But when the complications from my diabetes affected my mobility and capabilities after the birth of my children, I found it difficult to admit I was struggling. When help was offered I was gracious, but declined, running myself physically and emotionally into the ground. Then I let one person in, a lady who offered to do the nursery run. It changed my life. I was able to recharge my batteries, save the little precious energy I had for more productive things. I now have a network of close people I trust to help when I need it. And I’m getting better at asking. They don’t pity me… they just want to help.” — Joanne Shearer

6. “Let go of the person you were, and learn to love the person you have become. It’s hard to do, but once you accept your new life, things become a whole heap easier.” — Sandra Spinks

7. “Accepting doesn’t mean you’re giving up or giving in. Acceptance is just acknowledging your life is different than you imagined it would be, and that some of the steps needed to reach your goals may need to be adjusted.” — Tia Borkowski

8. “Stop once a day to memorize one beautiful moment, be it as simple as a perfect spiderweb shining in the sunlight outside your bedroom window or your child’s smile — to remind yourself of the beauty of life in the difficult chronic illness moments that seem to suck the beauty and joy from the world.” — Tristen Wuori

9. “The best advice for me was learning that I have to pace myself. Even if I’m having a good day, I know now if I overdo it trying to compensate, I’ll feel even worse the next day. I have to remember that how I’m feeling now, not how I was before chronic pain took over my life, is my new normal.” — Pamela Jessen

10. “It’s all right not to be OK.” — Jackie Le

11. “Live life. When you feel good, do something enjoyable. When you feel bad, go to bed. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Worrying about tomorrow will steal your today.” — Janet Oney

12. “Quit settling and do what it takes to ensure the best care.” — Angel Parrett

13. “The best advice, and honestly the hardest for me, has been to take my meds even on days when I feel good.” — Tanya Gray

14. “All you have to do today is not pretend that you’re OK.” — Victoria Churchill

15. “While life with chronic illness is a new normal, there is no normal with chronic illness; every day is different. From good to bad to so-so days, whatever you’re able to do is OK, even if that was just breathing. There is still meaning to life with chronic illness.” — Ali Zimmerman

16. “You feel how you feel, and that’s OK.” — Whitney Williams

17. “Find the good and positive things about your life now, living with an illness, and build from there. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you have nothing to contribute; you just have to do things differently.” — Bridget Flynn

18. “At some point you will get very sad and upset when you realize you’re not the same person you were and you can’t do what you did before. It’s OK to mourn the loss of energy, ability and former self.” — Rebekah Hale

19. “From my doctor: ‘Trust yourself, trust your body. You know what you are capable of more than anyone else, even more than I [do].’” — Cynthia Rhodes Alberson

20. “I live with cystic fibrosis and am fighting a very serious infection right now, necessitating three months on IV antibiotics. I’m also a third-year law student. Another lawyer with CF told me, ‘It doesn’t have to be pretty. There are no style points,’ in relation to finishing law school. It’s been very useful for me.” — Mariah Hanley

21. “The best advice I ever got was ‘grab the moment.’ I learned quickly it was the best way to live with a chronic illness. You can’t plan a week or even a day. Seize the moment. Each tiny, precious moment.” — Mary Stewart

22. “It’s OK to have bad days. Forgive yourself. Love yourself.” — Kerry Young

23. “There’s no shame in having to change your day. Only you, no one else, know what you need to function.” — Jackie Henning

24. “You are your own best advocate. You know your body and your situation better than anyone else, so be prepared to speak up for yourself, especially when it comes to dealing with doctors.” — Julie Pruitt

25. “Your best day today looks different from your best of yesterday, and that’s OK. Learn your limits, and stick by them. It’s OK to say no and not feel guilty about it.” — Heidi Mathey

26. “Keep close the few friends who love you unconditionally and want to be there for you. Let the rest fall away.” — Angela S. Davis

27. “Accept yourself where you are. No two days are alike, and if you don’t accept where you’re at each and every day, it’s easy to get down on yourself.” — Alexis Pearl

28. “Don’t be offended when someone says you look good. They know you’re sick, but there’s nothing wrong with accepting a compliment.” — Wendy Simpson

29. “I had an amazing physical therapist tell me, ‘You can come out of this feeling bitter or better. That’s up to you.’” — Tami Birk

30. “Don’t let the naysayers, the nonbelievers, the negative people cloud your mind as you battle your battle.” — Alexandria Hoehl

31. “Rest when your body is telling you it’s time.” — Kat VR

32. “Know it’s OK to say no.” — Sherry Cook

33. “When I was sick in the hospital, thought I was going to die, weak, scared, in pain, most people who visited me or called me would say, ‘Get better soon,’ ‘Everything will be just fine,’ ‘You are strong’ and of course that they love me. I appreciated everyone and all they had to say, but in my mind I would never get bed; I had a disease with no known cure… My brother called and what he said to me did help me: ‘Sis, I’m not gonna tell you to get well quick and get back to us soon. You take all the time you need, you let the doctors do their jobs and you let your family advocate for you… I’m not gonna tell you it will all be OK or will get better soon because you know what? What you’re going through sucks, it sucks bad. But I can tell you to just be in the moment, take all the time you need to get better and know so many people are here to help along the way. And don’t worry about making any of us feel better.’” — Gretchen McLachlan

If you have a chronic illness, what’s a piece of advice you’ve received that’s actually helped you? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: January 28, 2016
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