There are just too many definitions for chronic illness to list ( google it for yourself) and many contradict each other.
But, no matter what the definition is, there’s one thing you can count on in unpredictable chronic illness world.
Living with chronic illness will affect your quality of life.
What makes me so sure? I’ve seen it daily — both in my life with illnesses, and professionally, as a career coach to those with illness.
In “Mugging Myself”,Psychology Today, Alida Brill writes how she “mugs” herself as she lives with MS. Been there, done that, I say. How about you? Do you get in your own way? Are you tripping over your own feet in spite of your best efforts to sail smoothly with illness?
It’s easy to understand why. But do you have to accept this? It’s unlikely you can can change the disease course. But Do you believe that you can change how you live with it?
If you’re saying, yes, here’s a starting point. I’ve seen 3 traps that too many people fall into. And I’ve worked with people to think about it differently and seen what works. Try this.
Am I behaving as if living with a chronic illness is a sprint rather than a marathon? (Even with sprinters, it’s a marathon). If you are, you’re bound to run out of steam. Chronic illness requires patience and planning. It requires endurance. And, you need to live in a place of hope that you’ll make it to the finish line. Even if you can’t actually run a marathon, can you behave as if you are?
Is there some part of me that lives in fear of being “stressed”? Anywhere you turn, the message is that stress is bad for chronic illness. But according to Dr. Esther Sternberg (Stress, Chronic Illness and You), stress can be good for you, too. Sure, avoid on-going toxic stress, when possible. But rather than focusing on what to avoid, put your energy toward managing the source of the stress and learning to live with the stress. Is managing the source and the stress a more pro active, empowering stance for you?
Do I live life as fully as I can and allow myself to do the things that make me happy? Yes, symptoms can mean that you have to pare down. But you can still reach for those stars that will bring your fun and fulfillment. In Lemonade anyone?, I describe how a painful task created new opportunity. Start with setting desired outcomes – rather than unspecific goals. And create daily intentions to achieve them. Can you create lemonade for yourself?
But wait, you’re saying, I’m too stuck or too busy to think about this now. Really? That’s why this is the right time.
Unless you only work best on your own, ask for help (or pay for it). Find someone who will encourage you to get and stay on track. Yes, a chronic illness career coach is ideal (smile!) – or a life coach who knows about illness. But it can also be someone you know who understands what you’re up against.
Have you discovered ways to avoid these mind traps – or others?