7 things I wish I knew sooner about living with chronic illnessApr 25, 2023
Do you ever wish that you could turn back time? To whisper words of wisdom to your past self?
I certainly do.
I think back to my 22-year-old self, newly diagnosed with MS and filled with such fear and anxiety.
Then the countless MS relapses, spending weeks and months in hospitals and rehab centres, physically and emotionally paralysed.
I felt hopeless about my future, unsure of how to live well with MS.
Now, at 48, I face another challenge: stage 4 breast cancer. But this time is different. It's my younger self that is whispering words of reassurance in my ear. I'm not filled with the same sense of hopelessness, and I know that I can have an impact on my experience every step of the way.
If you're struggling with a chronic illness and unsure how to move forward, keep reading.
In this blog, I'll share the 7 insights that I wish I had known when I was first diagnosed with MS. Insights that could have saved me so much stress, anxiety, and heartache. But I'm grateful that I know them now as I am already experiencing unimagined possibilities in my life with breast cancer.
7 things I wish I had known sooner about living with chronic illness.
1. Be motivated by what’s important
A chronic illness can be a wake-up call to prioritise what truly matters in life. What do you value? What brings meaning and purpose to your life? Sometimes the sicker you are, the clearer this becomes. Lying in a hospital bed, you think of relationships, simple pleasures in life, and your passions. What is important to you becomes your strength and motivation to navigate through the darkest times.
2. Making changes does not signify defeat
To live well with a chronic illness, you need to make changes to your life. Change can be difficult, especially if you think this signifies defeat. That you are losing control of your life and giving up. That your illness has won. But that is not the case. You are choosing to live in alignment. To create a life that is conducive to your overall wellbeing. That allows you to do what is important to you. Whether that’s in relation to your career or spending more time with family and friends.
3. You are stronger than you think
Living with a chronic illness can be incredibly challenging, both physically and mentally. However, it can also reveal hidden strengths and qualities you never knew you had. By acknowledging your inner strength and determination, you will feel more confident in yourself and your ability to tackle any challenge that comes your way.
4. Have an open mind to new approaches
Living with a chronic illness can be a complicated and diverse experience. There is no single approach that fits every individual’s situation. Living well requires you to be open to new ways of approaching your illness. This could mean exploring natural therapies, allied health services, or making changes to your work or home life. By being open-minded and willing to try new things, you can take control of your life and improve your overall wellbeing despite the challenges posed by your chronic illness.
5. Be an active participant in your life
Although a chronic illness can sometimes make you feel like you're at the mercy of external factors, it's important to remember that you still can make choices and take actions that can positively impact your experience. Be an active participant in your life. This may involve starting to advocate for yourself in the medical world or prioritising self-care and healthy habits. You will then feel empowered and in control of your life despite the challenges posed by your chronic illness.
6. Build a support network that energises you
Living with a chronic illness can be isolating, but building a support network can make a world of difference. Seek out sources of support that uplift and motivate you. This could be in the form of support groups, online communities or friends and family members who provide positive encouragement and energise you. Like the Hurdle2Hope community on Instagram (I'd love to see you there!) Being around people who inspire hope and optimism can help you feel more empowered to manage your chronic illness and improve your overall wellbeing.
7. Embrace hope and unimagined possibilities
Even during the toughest times, such as a new diagnosis or intense treatment and recovery, it's crucial to hold onto hope. Your future is unknown, but it can also be filled with exciting possibilities that you never imagined. Or maybe you'll discover a new passion or hobby that brings you a sense of purpose and joy, like painting, photography, or writing. By staying open to new experiences and opportunities, you can create a future that is full of excitement, meaning, and fulfilment, despite the challenges of your chronic illness.
We can’t turn back time. But moving forward, we can have an impact on our experience with chronic illness by implementing these 7 things I learnt from living with MS and am now applying to this new journey of stage 4 breast cancer.
- Be motivated by what truly matters to you
- Making changes does not signify defeat
- You are stronger than you think
- Have an open mind to new approaches
- Be an active participant in your life
- Build a support network that energises you
- Embrace hope and unimagined possibilities
The perfect way to move forward in your life with chronic illness today...
Start protecting your emotional wellbeing by downloading the Dealing with the STRESS of ILLNESS free quick reference guide.