Thursday, 8 January 2015

Accepting Chronic Illness, not giving in - just accepting that life will be different!

Accepting a chronic illness or two as was my case with M.E and Fibromyalgia isn't easy, for many it can be completely overwhelming. Of course it doesn't help that half of the medical profession, family members and friends often don't believe that the conditions exist in the first place or think that it's 'all in your head'! 

In many cases the people who you would have assumed would be there to help and support you should you ever become ill aren't there for you and are often dismissive of the fact that you are ill or that there's actually anything wrong with you at all.

I found that accepting chronic illness is like going through the various stages of grief in no particular order and often jumping from one stage to another; shock, anger, denial, sadness, pain, feelings of helplessness, isolation, loneliness, and acceptance.

It makes sense with these illnesses that you go through similar feelings to those of someone grieving because you are grieving. Grieving for the person you wanted to be and life you wanted to lead but can't, 

feeling frustrated with yourself and the illness, angry and helpless because there's nothing that you can do to change things and this is not how you want things to be. 

Feeling alone and isolated because no one can help and no one in your life understands how you're feeling!

I think there's a similar path to acceptance for others in your life, whether it's your husband, partner, parents, kids etc. 

They are grieving too in a way, for what they have lost and trying to come to terms with how things are now and how the future and plans made will change because of the illness.

It takes time to come to terms with things and you need to give yourself the time you need to let yourself work through things and get your head around it all.

 It helps that there are plenty of online groups on Facebook with hundreds of people who understand what you are going through because they've been there themselves!

There are also plenty of organisations and charitied with information and support.

I found and still do that guilt plays a major role, guilt about what I can't do, what I 'should' be able to do, guilt from other people about what I 'should' be doing. 

I learnt over time that nearly everyone will have an opinion on what you 'should' be doing but just as you do, they need to learn to accept that you are ill. Accept that you aren't doing things because you can't and not because you don't want to.

 Realise that giving yourself a hard time for things that are beyond your control (or others doing that to you) isn't going to help you at all - in fact it will do the opposite and make everything harder!

Everyone reaches acceptance about illnesses at different times and like I mentioned above can go through various parts of the cycle repeatedly. 

I think it's important to remember that your loved ones are also going through a process towards acceptance and you may not all get there at the same time!

Just as there are groups for people with M.E and Fibromyalgia, there are groups and organisations for partners, carers and family of those with the illnesses where people will understand what they are going through too.

The best thing that you can do is try to build a support network, whether that's family, friends, groups online - just people that will be there when you need them! 

Find things that help you cope when you feel like you can't and that will help you to relax, a favourite show, audio books, meditation, doing crafts...whatever works for you. 

Trying to limit the negativity and stress in your life also helps, the people who insisted I wasn't ill no matter what myself,doctors or anyone else said are no longer in my life.

For a long time I thought that admitting I was ill, admitting that there were things I could no longer do, needed help with or aids to help was like giving up or giving in to the illness and letting it beat me. It's not giving up at all - just accepting that life isn't going to go the way you'd originally planned.

You won't necessarily be able to do the things that you had intended but it doesn't mean that you're giving up, quite the opposite in fact - you're just moving on and finding another way to live your life. 

A way forward that works for you and works with your illness, finding ways to adapt, setting new goals and finding other ways to accomplish some of the things you'd set out to do in the first place!

Your life isn't over because you've got a chronic illness  - it's just gonna be different!

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