The Mighty Logo

3 Tips for Staying Positive When You Have a Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I didn’t ask for this… the continuous pain, anxiety and exhaustion. 

What did I do to deserve this? 

This is how I usually start my day – with these nagging thoughts flying around in my brain upon waking. At 25 years old, I am quite the lovely little mess. It is very hard to stay positive when it feels like your body is turning against you. Being chronically ill means your life basically revolves around your illness. Absolutely everything has to be planned around it, which makes it hard to make plans in advance because you never know how you will feel. Will the pain be manageable that day? Will I be able to pretend I am OK? Or will I not be able to leave my house because the thought of taking a shower and getting ready sounds like nightmarish torture? Your life can feel like a rollercoaster, zooming up and down and going through the loop-de-loops of symptoms.

Staying positive is extremely hard when you live with a constant sense of impending doom – your symptoms ready to strike at any moment. I mean, anyone would have trouble with that. So, I try to take the best care of myself I can and feed my interests as much as possible. The top three methods of self-care that help me are pretty simple.

1. Creativity

I need to be creative or my soul’s flame will burn out! Writing is big for me. Being able to put my words and thoughts on paper and turn them into poetry can be such a beautiful and rewarding experience. I try to do something that allows my heart to flow out of me. Whether it be closing my eyes and listening to music as I plan a new painting in my mind’s eye, experimenting with recipes in the kitchen or even just reorganizing a drawer or shelf, I can always find something to be creative with! I have found a lot of fellow warriors really enjoy the adult coloring books and I like them too. When you are focusing on something creative, it can help ease the pain and make you feel purposeful.

2. Comfort

Blankets, pillows and cozy clothes, oh my! Being as physically comfortable as possible is very important. I have ditched my bras and tight clothes and have opted for more loose-fitting clothing to cover my sensitive little body. My usual outfit consists of leggings and a big shirt or tank top. Luckily, that is actually in style these days. So hey, no sacrifice here! I also choose shoes that will provide me support as I walk. I have found that my Skechers “GOwalk” shoes are the best for me. Everyone is different though! Aside from your clothing, your home should be your comfort and safe zone. I like to refer to my house as my cave – the place where I can be myself and shut out the world. I have things up on the walls in my house that make me smile, including my own artwork, to remind me I have purpose. Keeping your home clean and comfortable is necessary. Keep your house organized so your mind can rest in a peaceful environment. I know it can be hard to keep up with cleaning and chores, so pace yourself and maybe just pick one corner of the house every day to focus on, and by the end of the week, voilà!

3. Support

It is perfectly OK to ask for help and seek out support. It’s not easy for everyone (me!) but it is so worth it. When you’re sick it can be so isolating and lonely – I know. Do some research and find a local support group you can join or find one online. I have found a lot of love and support through an online group and it makes me feel like I’m not alone… or crazy! Another way to have support is to find a therapist who can help you with the feelings and moods being in constant pain can cause. There are therapists out there who actually specialize in chronic pain and chronic illnesses, and they can significantly help you and teach you breathing and meditating techniques that will help you center yourself when you feel like jumping out of your skin. Plus, it’s nice to be able to have someone to talk to about your illness who won’t judge you or make you feel small. I absolutely love my therapist. I’ll say it again: it is OK to find help!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Originally published: October 20, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home