When first being initiated into life coach training, I was often asked for suggestions about living with chronic disease. As time has passed this is one topic that still remains at the forefront of may emails that I receive. Living with a chronic disease is difficult because of the pain, suffering, and shame that often accompanies the disease. It can be easy to fall victim to the negative mindset of “My life is ruined” or “I’m useless now,” but that doesn’t have to be the case no matter how debilitating the disease may be.
When living with a chronic disease, it’s important to focus on what you can do. Likewise, it’s important to disallow negative thoughts from dictating what you can and can’t do.
When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, there are many changes that take place:
- Change in your lifestyle
- Change in your attitude
- Change in the way you do things
Maybe even a change in where you live
That’s a lot and all these changes can certainly be stressful!
Our mindset is the biggest factor on how you choose to react to a negative situation. Remember, your reaction is always a choice. You can let the news debilitate you or you can let it move you into new areas you might’ve never thought possible.
When I think of someone with a chronic disease, Michael J. Fox is one of the first people who comes to mind. He has Parkinson’s disease, which causes loss of muscle control throughout his body. Fox constantly shakes and trembles, making everyday tasks like brushing teeth and eating very difficult. Not only that, but he had to make a complete lifestyle change from a successful acting career to being an activist in helping others who have Parkinson’s or other diseases.
Does Michael J. Fox allow Parkinson’s to control his life? No, he took control and has learned other ways to live life to the fullest, despite his disease.
Making a Difference in the Lives of Others
You don’t have to be a TV or movie star to make a difference in your life or the lives of others either. There are many opportunities to help others and build a community. Some of these are:
- Start a blog about what it’s like to live with your disease. Others may benefit from knowing that they aren’t alone in their sufferings. You just may be the source of encouragement that strengthens others!
- Fundraising activities and events. Get involved with fundraising, whether it’s in your local area or worldwide via the Internet.
- Speak out about your illness. Be a speaker at a fundraiser, in a school or at other events to help raise awareness.
- Volunteer at your local community center. Be proof that living with a chronic disease doesn’t have to be debilitating. Be an advocate for yourself and those with the disease.
Support One Another
Make it your mission to find others to rely on for support and encouragement. Getting involved with support groups gives you the social support that is essential to your mental and emotional well being. Search for a support group online or in your local area and get active in the group.
Don’t let the disease have control over your life.
By taking action and getting directly (or indirectly) involved with finding a cure, raising awareness in your community, and speaking to others about it, you’ll find that life doesn’t stop because of the disease. Instead, many doors of opportunity are waiting to be opened by you.
Dr. Randin Brons, Ph.D., C.M.H., M.S.L.C.