My blogger friend Maria over at My Life Works Today has asked me to offer up some tips to my readers about living well with illness. In her post, Tying up loose ends, she offers some great tips for keeping your life in order as far as chronic illness (and all of the medical information you’re guaranteed to accumulate) is concerned.
My tips aren’t quite as practical as Maria’s, but I wanted to offer up a different set of points. So here are some tips for my readers:
Talk the talk and walk the walk
Especially when you are young and chronically ill, it’s hard to find your “authentic” self. But this is a necessary step in being able to live well with illness. So be true to yourself, your desires, and your dreams. But also be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do because of your illnesses.
You can cope your own way
No one has the right to advise you on how to cope with illness. Now, I’m not advocating negative coping behaviors like abusing alcohol or drugs. But I do think that if your coping mechanisms aren’t bad for your health issues, you should certainly do whatever works for you. Me? I cope by reorganizing drawers at three in the morning. Like I said, whatever works (and is not detrimental to your health).
The point is, if you aren’t listening to the signals your body is sending you physically and/or emotionally, you aren’t going to be able to help (even possibly save) yourself. You are the person who knows you the best, so take some time and listen…
I find that I’ve been talking about my health a lot lately in diverse settings. The one thing that has come out of this is telling my story. That seems like a difficult and daunting task to me. To actually sit down and write something coherent and cohesive. In reality, there is value to stepping back and looking at the situation as a whole, rather than the everyday minutiae. I’m not saying those things aren’t important, because I blog about them all the time. But sometimes stepping back and looking at the broader picture is a necessary task in order to keep moving forward. (It also makes the story a bit more balanced i.e. not all positive or all negative)
Treat yourself like you treat others
Usually it’s the other way around – “Treat others as you would like to be treated” – but the truth is, many of us, myself included, treat other people much better than we treat ourselves (even if only in a metaphorical sense).
Be your own health advocate (but have someone else on standby just in case)
Many of us know, or come to understand after experiencing illness, that the best person to fight for you is yourself. This is counterintuitive, that the sick and tired have to advocate for themselves, but that’s how it goes.
Especially as a young and chronic, it’s hard to imagine being incapacitated to the point of not being able to make my own health decisions. But unfortunately, this is something that can happen to anyone. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I want my health advocate to be, and I’m inclined to have it be someone who I don’t have strong emotional attachment to, so that they can make the most rational decision possible if called upon to do so. Although I have yet to figure out exactly who the person for this job is, I think we can all agree that chronic illness is unpredictable and you have to be ready for anything.
The point of all these tips revolves around a common theme – respecting oneself and caring enough about oneself to get the care you need and deserve are absolutely essential in living well with illness. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the club or a veteran, before you can really get organized health-wise, you’ve got to examine the bigger picture of your life first. As the title of Maria’s, blog post suggests, you’ve got to tie up those loose ends…
I urge you to check out my post, Building A Better Me, Part 1: Being A “Smart Patient” Matters*, which is the first post in a blog series that I’ve started. There I offer a more practical list of tips for dealing with illness.
I also urge you to add any advice that you have for others as a comment to this post, or post advice on your own blog. So much about the virtual community of the chronically ill is to help each other learn and grow.