Living With Chronic Illness - 7 Things You and Your Loved Ones should Know about
Updated: Aug 3
A chronic illness diagnosis wreaks havoc not only on the physical health of a person, but also on their mental health. Research indicates that persons with chronic illness are at a higher risk for developing depressive and anxious symptoms. Additionally, they also face social obstacles of stigmatization, feeling inferior and different, and loneliness (Benedetto et al., 2014; Runions et al., 2020). Thus, it is important to take care of our emotional and mental wellbeing while also taking care of our physical body for optimal health.
We’ve compiled below a list of 7 things you, and your loved ones should keep in mind/know about as you navigate the journey of chronic illness.
1) Know your medical plan
First and foremost, believe that you have the right to know your medical plan. Collaborate with your doctor and care team to understand your diagnosis, the medications you would need, and steps you can take when there is an emergency. If you have questions, ask your doctor and care team openly. Chances are, they have worked with many people with your condition before and they know the answers to any concerns you may have. Right now, Ontario is facing a Family Physician shortage. To help get connected to doctors accepting new patients and/or specialize in the field relevant to your chronic illness, visit the Ontario government’s page Health Care Connect to get matched.
2) Learn about your chronic illness
In addition to working closely with your medical team, read about your chronic illness. The more knowledge you have, the more you are likely to understand your condition better and make decisions that support your health. Moreover, learning about your chronic illness will also allow you to feel empowered and in charge of your health. The internet has become a integral part of the planning process, see here for a list of the top rated Chronic Illness blogs and websites, as rated by FeedSpot
3) Join support groups
Receiving a chronic illness can be an extremely isolating experience. However, there are many support groups, both online and in-person, depending on your preference, that you can join. In these support groups, you will meet people who share a common health issue with you. You will find that support groups can be a wonderful outlet to express yourself, read about others’ stories, and have discussions about your chronic illness symptoms, and its effect on your personal, social, and professional life. All in all, support groups can be safe spaces that foster understanding and togetherness. This one offered and sponsored by the Ontario Government could be a great place to start.
4) Finding Acceptance
Chronic illness is a lifelong health issue, but that does not mean you will continue to experience symptoms all of your life. By definition, chronic illness has periods of flare ups and remission. Your disease is active during a flare up, and it is well controlled during remission. There is an ebb and flow cycle for your chronic illness. This means that you may have to adjust your routine depending on the nature of your chronic illness at the time. Specifically, if you’re in a flare up, you might have to tweak your working hours, attendance at school, ask your family to share more household responsibilities, et cetera.
Sometimes, it can be really hard navigating this all by yourself, talking to a professional can help with alleviating the mental anguish that comes with coping with acceptance. You do not have to be alone in this journey, connect with our therapists for a free 15 minute no obligation consultation today and see if therapy could be the right support for you.
5) Stay connected with your social supports
As chronic illness can make us feel alone, it is very important to stay in touch with our social supports. You can define who you would like to include in your social supports. Have an open discussion and share with them about your condition and how it impacts you. Communicate your needs with them. People in your social supports may never be able to truly understand what you’re going through, but they would love to be there for you whenever you need more support.
Sometimes, reaching out for supports can be hard. Building relationships and connections after trust has been broken requires us to make sense of what has happened before we can move on. If you are finding it difficult to find that peace by yourself, connect with us for a free 15 minute consultation and see if one of our qualified psychotherapists can support you on that journey. Learn more about our team here.
6) Find hobbies and interests
Chronic illness can deplete a lot of our physical and mental energy, and it can steer us away from enjoying things we found otherwise joyful. I acknowledge this may be easier said than done, but try to find hobbies and interests that offer you joy and peace. The idea is to find interests that serve meaning in your life, and can define you beyond your chronic illness, and eventually allow you to enjoy life despite any limitations you may have due to your condition.
7) Reach out for professional help
Finally, if you’re needing more support, consider reaching out for therapy. Some therapists may have experience in working with chronic illness clients and they may have the tools and resources to help you navigate your life and increase your overall wellbeing. Additionally, a diagnosis of a chronic illness may indicate grief - a loss of the life you had before your diagnosis and a loss of the life you could have had if you never had the illness. Therapists can help you to process such deep thoughts and feelings.
About the Author:
Ria Gulati, MACP (In Progress), RP (Qualifying)
Ria is currently completing her Master of Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University and is a qualifying registered psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Ria works at Your Story Counselling Services, a private practice clinic offering individual, couple and relational, family, sex and sexuality, and trauma therapies. As a first generation Canadian and woman of Sout-Asian descent, Ria understands the hardships that come with exploring new cultural identities, while still honouring our ancestral cultural identity. As a South Asian immigrant in Canada, Ria acknowledges this process often comes with a range of emotions and disparities. By that token, we invite you to explore your journey with Ria.
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Benedetto, M. D., Lindner, H., Aucote, H., Churcher, J., McKenzie, S., Croning, N., & Jenkins, E. (2014) Co-morbid depression and chronic illness related to coping and physical and mental health status, Psychology, Health & Medicine, 19(3), 253-262,
Runions, K. C., Vithiatharan, R., Hancock, K., Lin, A., Brennan-Jones, C. G., Gray, C., & Payne, D. (2020). Chronic health conditions, mental health and the school: A narrative review. Health Education Journal, 79(4), 471–483. https://doi.org/10.1177/0017896919890898