The Mighty Logo

A Playlist to Get You Through All the Emotional Stages of Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

While everyone experiences different emotions, people with chronic health issues face some very unique ones. Some are super broad (i.e, “I just feel blah”), whereas some are incredibly specific (i.e., “No, you can’t put me on a new medication, doc. I just got all of my prescriptions to refill at the same time at the pharmacy every month and that was last week. Let me have this win or I’m going to lose my sh*t.” You laugh, but the struggle is real here, folks. I worked hard to get all my meds to refill at the same time). Some are flat-out weird (i.e., “I can’t really feel my face, but I’m on enough medications right now that I don’t mind. I could light my hair on fire and not care”). You get the point.

It’s hard to find a coping mechanism that is effective in such a wide range of situations. Some of my favorite pastimes are great in certain contexts and awful in others. If I’ve had a bad day and need to feel productive, basket weaving is the answer. On a day when I’m in a lot of pain, though, it’s only going to make things worse. Music, though, is one of those things that is so varied and diverse that there’s something for every emotion.

1. When you do not feel like functioning, but absolutely have to. 

We all have these days. Sometimes, the universe thinks it’s funny to give us vertigo the same day as a family member’s wedding. Or sometimes a surgeon decides the only day he can do your surgery is the one before your college graduation. I honestly don’t remember my undergrad ceremony. There was a lot of Tylenol with codeine involved.

The song: “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” by The Wombats

I dare you to listen to this song and not feel like you can face the day. This also works for when you have a really rough day and something small is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Recently I was only able to do liquids and spent three days on the bathroom floor (thank heavens for memory foam bathmats, y’all). On day three, I developed a bladder infection. That was just the universe giving me the finger. Clearly my life wasn’t exciting enough at that point.

2. When you have so many high-powered medications in your system that you start to feel loopy.

So many of us have experienced that slap-happy delirium that comes along with certain medications. In my case, it’s when the Benedryl hits my system during an infusion, or post-anesthesia. You should consider having someone confiscate your phone when you’re in this phase. Delirium texting is very similar to drunk texting. 

The song: “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf

Sorry to burst your bubble if you thought this was about Aladdin. It’s not. While we’re clearing up misconceptions, Tom Petty also isn’t singing about a girl named Mary Jane.

3. When you’re proud that you’re up, showered and dressed, and you want the world to be impressed.

If I’m up, showered, and dressed, I consider that day a success. On days when we feel like sh*t but manage to not end up curled in the fetal position on the floor, we want the world to be majorly impressed with us. I wore a dress to work today and looked like a professional. That’s so above and beyond all my own expectations.

The song: “Don’t Ya” by Brett Eldredge

I did cut those jeans just right, Brett. Thank you for noticing. I also curled my hair.

4. When someone says something super insensitive and you’re trying to not say anything snotty while you picture a boulder falling on their head.

Someone the other day asked me if I was on a liquid-only diet by choice, and that I should care less about my weight. Yes, I’m totally only consuming liquids 100 percent by choice. That’s actually super tame compared to what I thinking. My thoughts had a lot more swear words in them. I had to politely inform him that, no, I didn’t voluntarily give up solid food.

The song: “Pray for You” by Jaron and the Long Road to Live

Just a heads up, this one is super irreverent. Hopefully no one is majorly offended. There’s a decent chance I’ll be struck down by lightning for this.

5. When you’re sorting your medications and remember how not-normal your life is. 

I sort all of my medications and vitamins into pill cases a month at a time. It’s like a large scale game of Mancala, but there’s no winner and it takes a lot longer.

The song: “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News

I love this song, and I also have phases where I hate all of my medications. Unrelated, whenever a doctor puts me on a new medication, I sing it as “I’m On a New Drug.” It’s really disheartening when they don’t get the joke. It’s like the time the super-young-looking GI doctor didn’t get my Doogie Howser joke. If you don’t know who Doogie Howser is, you are clearly not old enough to be my doctor.

6. When you have a dark day. 

No matter how good you are at juggling chronic illness and no matter how optimistic and happy you are, you will have dark days. They happen, and that’s OK. They don’t make you weak. Let your self have that time to cope. Just be ready to get back to business after.

The song: “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

One of the greatest songs ever written.

Also, anything by Simon and Garfunkel works well in this phase.

7. When your blood work comes back and it’s not good (or any other time it becomes apparent that your body is attacking itself).

The song: “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift

Not only because you have literal bad blood (or at least unhealthy blood), though. When you have an autoimmune disease, your body is attacking itself. The bad blood you have is with yourself. There’s something both empowering and terrifying about that. Knowing you’re your own worst enemy means you have to prioritize yourself. It can also feel like a no-win situation, though. It’s you against you. Either way, you feel like you lose.

8. You take a minute to realize just how fantastic you are, despite having a chronic illness. 

Make sure you take the time to do this every now and then. The fact that you’re functional is amazing. I’m a 24-year-old with a master’s degree working in public health. I’m also a Girl Scout leader and just bought a house. Boom.

The song: “Flawless” by Beyonce

OK, so none of us wake up looking like Beyonce. The general premise of the song is great, though. You are amazing.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 26, 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