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How I Take Care of My Mental Health While Chronically Ill

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I have learned over the course of my battle against my chronic illness that it is as much mental as it is physical. The mental battle is challenging because you can’t take ibuprofen when you are feeling frustrated, resulting in it taking the frustration away. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I have come up with some ways that I am working on to help me heal mentally.

1. Learn from the losses.

Some days you win some, and other days you lose. It was Malcom X who said, “Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains it’s own seed, it’s own lesson, on how to improve your performance the next time.” And that is what I am talking about.

I feel like most people would say that they have more losses in a week than gains. I could be wrong. However, I have had to change my mindset on losses. I used to think a loss, whether it was a card game, a basketball game, or you did really bad on a test, just meant either you suck, someone or something was better than you, or it was too hard, and so you therefore lost. I used to think this way, but now I realize I am wrong.

I now see losses as Malcom X saw them: as an opportunity to learn. I take a day that I am in more pain than usual, more depressed and down on myself, and I look back at it. I can see adjustments I need to make so I don’t feel that way again, like eating or exercising. I can see how I got out of it and make a mental note to try it for next time. Any time I feel like I have lost a day to my chronic disease, I have to realize I just have to change my mind set and ask, “What did I learn in this loss?” I tend to find I actually gained more than I really did lose.

This is hard to do sometimes, because sometimes we just have down right blow out losses. These days make me feel almost hopeless, and above all frustrated. However, I try in anyway possible to find the improvements and changes I can make along the way.

2. Take pride in the wins.

I have talked about the losses, and while I have had many of these over the past three and a half years now, I have to recognize the wins. Rarely is a whole day a win with a chronic illness, but I take my wins by moments, not so much by days.

The first way I can take pride in a win is by celebrating my successes. If I successfully made it a whole day without getting too down on myself about school, than I allow myself to feel good about that. It is a way of mentally rewarding myself, I’ll watch a funny Olan Rogers video on Youtube, or I’ll read something that doesn’t have to do with my Nutrition 150 text book.

There are little things I can do to celebrate my victories. For example, last week I was more upset than usual because I wasn’t able to eat with a big group of people because of my diet restrictions. I didn’t end up splurging and just giving into the delicious smell of cornbread and chili. So when I got home I made myself my own really good food.

The second way I take pride in my win throughout the day is by making sure I take note of my victories. I can’t always reward myself by making myself good food that I actually can eat, however, I can make sure I recognize when something good happened. I am still working on this part.

An example might be if I wake up one morning and the day is great, than something happens later in the evening and I’m down or in lots of pain. Instead of marking off that day as a loss because I forgot all the good stuff I was feeling earlier, I can take note of how well I felt earlier in the day. Then I don’t necessarily have to see the whole day as a loss, but I can give myself credit that most of the day was alright.

3. Let the good in.

I have noticed that if I do number one, learn from the losses, I can then see more wins as well, and by being able to see these I find I can let more good into my life. This helps boost my mentality into beating this disease mentally. I feel like by allowing myself to have good times I am also allowing myself to heal as well. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to have goodness and happiness in my life? Why can’t I fight this and not be happy? As with anything else in my life that is hard. Why can’t I be a hard working, exhausted, busy college student and yet, happy? I feel like sometimes all we need to do is allow ourselves to be happy, and have goodness in our lives.

These are simple steps I have undertaken to try and be more mentally sound while trying to beat my disease this year. I am not perfect at them, but I feel like they are meaningful and helpful to me.

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Originally published: March 7, 2017
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