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4 Lessons That Can Help the Chronic Illness Journey Feel a Bit Lighter

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Chronic illness can teach excruciating lessons, and I have learned and relearned my own. I’ll share my lessons so that perhaps your journey may be a bit lighter today.

1. Be OK with not being OK. As I have come to realize that this is no short-term trial, I have entered the messy process of grieving. I find moments of denial and anger, and hope for more moments of acceptance. Forcing positivity is not healthy, and it is OK to acknowledge the hard. I’m going to bet that you, my reader, are not a self-pitier and wallower. The fact that you are here and have shown up today, shows that you are a fighter. Trust yourself on the hard days that you have the power to try again tomorrow. Because you have already proven that you can.

2. Be mindful of your body – but don’t judge. During a therapy session, my therapist was trying to get me to process through the idea of purchasing a wheelchair. We both found my avoidance comical, the effort I put in to dance around the emotion was impressive. Finally, I set aside the distracted thoughts. I acknowledged the pain, and focused in on how my body responded. Take time daily to be still and ask your body how it feels – and don’t judge its response. If it hurts, notice the hurt. Acknowledging pain without judgment takes away its emotional control.

3. Don’t hide the pain from your loved ones. Shame and guilt breed isolation. And chronic illness already prescribes that enough. People do not know your pain unless you tell them. They cannot sufficiently support unless they know your needs. Pride wants us to protect people from feeling sorry for us. But that is a dangerous sentiment. Managing chronic illness is not a one man job, and you are too important to give up this fight.

4. Express gratitude. The simplest of practices can be the most fruitful, yet the most difficult to begin. A Google Scholar search will yield a multitude of studies with astounding scientific results of practicing gratitude. Gratitude gives me hope and purpose on the darkest of my days. How you express most meaningfully needs to be a personal journey. But whether you chose to write, speak or think about the good, it needs to be as routine as your daily medications. There is power in this practice.

Acknowledge the hard, have hope for the future and express gratitude in the now. You are worth it.

Getty Image by Peppersmint

Originally published: May 26, 2018
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