Coping with Chronic Illness: Thrive Don’t Just Survive
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics defines a chronic illness as a condition that is persistent or long-lasting that generally cannot be prevented by vaccination or cured by medication, meaning most chronic illnesses are lifelong. Conditions that fall into this category include cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, arthritis and fibromyalgia, a condition I was diagnosed with nearly 3 years ago.
When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia it rocked my world. I was in my early 20’s and I now had a chronic illness that I hadn’t even heard of prior to being diagnosed. After the shock of the diagnosis I decided that I wanted to do more than survive my chronic illness; I wanted to thrive. The following are ways I have managed to do just that.
One of the best things I did for myself after my diagnosis was to thoroughly research my condition. I wanted to know all I could so that I could properly advocate for myself. Medical professionals may have educational knowledge and on the job experience, but we know our bodies best. I never wanted to be in a position where I blindly took a doctor’s word without any understanding or knowledge of my own. Being educated on my condition has helped me find natural ways to address many of my symptoms and it has made me feel more in control.
Find a Community.
Chronic illnesses can be so isolating, especially since many chronic illnesses are not visible to the naked eye. Often times people just don’t understand the severity of the pain the condition causes or just how much it impacts one’s ability to live a normal life. The absence of community left me feeling depressed and anxious. Community offers support and understanding that is necessary when coping with chronic illness. A community provides a space for you to share your struggles, be heard without judgment, get feedback and even suggestions. My community is a safe place for me to go when I feel like no one else gets it. They always listen, always understand, and always care.
A lack of self-care almost always leads to physical breakdown, especially when coping with a chronic illness. I learned very quickly that if I did not set aside time for myself to recoup and recover that I would ultimately suffer. I follow the 1 x 1 x 1 rule. I set aside time to do something for myself each month, something for myself each week, and something for myself each day.
My once a month activity is getting my nails done. It’s 90 minutes of me sitting still and letting someone do something for me and it makes me feel pampered and pretty.
Once a week I pick a day and spend it away from my child for at least two hours to do something like take a bath or a nap, go for a run, or even catch up on my Netflix shows. This time revitalizes me and gives me just enough space and time to pour into myself so I have enough to pour into my son.
For my Once a day activity I choose to do absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes each day. I sit in silence in the dark on my bed and just be. It’s a big deal for a busy body like me. The scripture Psalms 46:10 serves as my reference point which says, “…be still and know that I am God.” It’s amazing how much peace and revelation comes in those 15 minutes of stillness in the presence of God.
Don’t Lose the Faith.
When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I struggled with bitterness. I felt like God had failed me because I now had to cope with this lifelong condition, which up until that point had caused me a lot of physical pain and been a huge inconvenience in my life. I fell into a ‘why me’ self-pity party. Here is the thing- God doesn’t stop being good just because our circumstances are bad. The fact that I was chronically ill didn’t change the fact that God was a Healer. I took my eyes off my good God and put them on my bad circumstances. Much like when Peter was walking on water, the moment I took my focus off God I began to drown in sorrow and pity. God hadn’t abandoned me and he wasn’t punishing me. He was simply using this situation to draw me nearer. Once I stopped blaming Him and started relying on Him, I found peace and joy in the midst of my situation.
Chronic illness does not have to be the end all be all. Honestly, it can be a the beginning of a new journey between you and God.As you learn to lean on Him more, He’ll reveal Himself to you in new and miraculous ways. Keep your head up and rest on the knowledge that the God who brought you to it will carry you through it.
Staff Writer at Christian En Vogue
Diamond Grant is passionate follower of Christ with a deep love for writing. After rededicating her life to Christ during her college years, Diamond became an advocate for women pursuing mental, emotional, and physical health/wellness. When she is not busy being a homeschooling mama to her son or mentoring women on the road to healing, you can find her with a stack of books and a journal nearby ready to take notes.