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So what happens now? Part 1: Dealing with the emotional stress of illness
by Andrea Martell

Getting sick and then spending years of money and time fighting for a diagnosis and treatment is enough to knock the wind out of anyone's sail. Disability is stressful. Emotional stress. Physical stress. Financial stress. You name it. You got it.

A diagnosis is a welcome end to a hard fight. Congratulations you won the battle, but not the war! So what happens now?

Even if you knew something was wrong, getting a diagnosis of a chronic illness or disease will most likely leave you spinning. To win the war, you have to approach the new you with the same traits that won the battle. Courage. Determination. Faith.

Dealing with the Emotional Stress

First thing is first. Sit down and have a good cry if you need one. The grieving process for your loss, and it is a loss, will go on for some time. But holding it in will only make the problem worse. There is no shame in grieving.

I've been sick for about five years now with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, depression and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. That's on top of the scoliosis I've had since I was 8 years old. One of the things I'm known for is my sunny attitude. The reason I have one is that over the years I've learned that it is okay to feel sad about what has happened to me, and that if I allow myself the grief I need, it will not weigh heavily upon me.

Second, depending on your illness or disease, you may have lost some friends along the way. Hug the ones that have stood behind you and thank them for believing in you. They're true friends.

You may feel like the walking wounded right now so taking care of yourself emotionally is very important.

Join a support group with people who will understand what you feel, because they have been there too. Read books about what your body is going through. Knowledge is power. If you understand what is happening, you may not be able to fix it, but you can take preventative measures to make sure whatever you have gets no worse.

Most important of all to your emotional well being is how you talk to yourself. It takes time to accept what is happening to you. Your life may now involve pills, treatments, more trips to the doc or hospital for tests and follow ups. Which can indeed add more emotional stress. A positive attitude will see you through.

Things to do to improve your emotional outlook:

1. Write down a list of all the things that you love to do, that make you happy such as: photography, painting, reading, relaxing bath, listening to music. Make time to do something like this for yourself everyday.

2. Whether it is by prayer, affirmation, or possitive messaging (or all three) tell your mind that you are infusing yourself with strength, energy, and good health. Do this at least twice a day. You can even put a note to yourself by your bedside next to the pills, "I will wake up tomorrow with strength, health, and energy" It won't cure you, but it will open doors for you. People who are positive are more likely to get well. Having a positive attitude will also help you adapt to your new life.

3. Embrace change. Fear of change is one of the factors in stress. Embracing change is a good way to destroy this stress factor. Your illness may make you feel like you have no control over your life whatsoever. I know I felt that way for a long time.

Then I sat down and concentrated on what I could control in my life, and I threw away any thoughts of what I had no control over. For example, I cannot control that I am sick, or when I will be tired, or not tired. What I can control is what I put in my body ( healthy foods, water, medications). I can control what I choose to concentrate my energy on. I can choose my friends, and how I face each day. I decide whats in my power to decide. The rest, I just deal with as it happens.

4. Learn to delegate and ask for help. For some of us this is the hardest thing to do, but it will actually help you and those who care about you. It's possible you've been on the giving end of help for so long that you have no idea to ask for help. You may also not enjoy having things done for you. I know I don't!

Admitting you need help can be empowering. There are probably those around you who would feel useful if they could offer you help, but they're afraid to offend you. If you ask, you're saving your loved ones a lot of guessing. On top of that you can concentrate on what you can do for yourself, rather spending frustrated hours cursing the walls for what you can no longer do for yourself. Always find the I CAN, and you WILL.

5. Most of all. Take your time. You don't have to deal with it all today. Take baby steps to your emotional recovery from the trials and tribulations that illness and disease can cause.

Dealing with the physical stress of illness is discussed in What happens Now? Part 2.

Related Articles:

So what happens now? Part 2: Dealing with the physical stress of illness
The problem of physical stress during illness is explored.

So what happens now? Part 3: Dealing with the financial stress of illness
Financial stress can be present in our lives no matter what our health status is, but the fact remains that “health is wealth”. Being sick or disabled is expensive. 


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