1. Letting your disease control your life.
As long as we allow our disease to control our lives, we really don’t have a life. It’s not easy. In fact, it is very, very hard to do. But we have to find a way to be in control. Sometimes, that may just start out to be setting realistic goals and then being able to accomplish them. With chronic disease, our lives will never be the same. When we stop trying to go back to what was and never will be again, we will start to gain control.
2. Taking life too seriously.
When we have chronic disease, we have to continue to enjoy life. Our friends, our children, our grandchildren. We can’t do everything. But we can continue to do some of the things that bring us joy. And it is so important to find that someone or some thing that brings a smile to our face or that makes us laugh. When we laugh, our bodies release chemicals that can help ease our pain – if only for a little while. The more we laugh, the longer we might find relief.
3. Sticking with a bad doctor.
The doctor is not always right. In fact, many are not familiar with taking care of patients with most chronic illnesses. Therefore, we have to search out and find a doctor who not only knows our disease but also is able to effectively communicate with us. And we should not feel guilty about changing doctors. We need good care and it can make all the difference in the world.
4. Not keeping a diary of symptoms to share with our doctors.
It’s is very difficult to remember what symptom was worse when. Many chronic illnesses can have so many symptoms that without writing them down and tracking when they are worse, there is simply no way that we can communicate what is most wrong to our doctors. So, keep a diary. Keep track of how symptoms vary by day and by time of day. A good written record may end up making a huge difference in finding a treatment that works.
5. Expecting way too much from medicines.
The right medicine can help a lot. But in the vast majority of times, medications are not going to cure us but only mask some symptoms temporarily. Relying solely on medications to get us through the day will not help us stay in control and might only serve to give our disease the upper hand. So be careful. Work with your doctor to choose the right medications and only the medications you need. I think the fewest medications possible to achieve the most benefit is the delicate balance we must have.
6. Eating a poor diet.
Part of chronic disease is making sure that we are eating well. We need a balanced diet that is rich in foods that help us fight inflammation – I think most chronic illnesses, if not caused by inflammation, are made much worse by it. Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential and should be as free as possible from added chemicals. For that matter, the best thing for us is to avoid processed foods as much as we can. I think added chemicals have caused our immune systems to go crazy. There are many herbs and teas that help a lot. For most, we have to get used to eating fewer calories simply because we are less active. And, going up and down in weight like a yo-yo only makes things worse.
7. Failing to explore alternative treatments.
There is so much that is available to the chronic disease patient beyond traditional medicine. And, we should all take advantage of it. Massage, acupuncture, natural foods, essential oils, meditation, relaxation and bio-feedback have all been shown to help. So, don’t discount other treatments. If they do no harm, they can only help. It’s best though to discuss them with your doctor. Another reason to have the right doctor on board.
8. Being isolated from friends and family.
I think this is just about the worst thing we can do when we have a chronic illness. Maybe we feel guilty. But we shouldn’t. Maybe we think we are a burden. We are not! Maybe we feel down and think we just don’t want to be around other people. This feeling is that darkness called depression (a clinical symptoms of chronic illness) trying to grab hold. We have to reach out to others. Have someone to talk to. Be around other people. Especially those times when we think we want to be alone.
9. Not talking about your illness.
We have to talk to others about what we are feeling – physically and emotionally. I say to people: “I agree to listen to you, so you agree to listen to me.” Don’t feel ashamed of your illness. You didn’t do this to yourself. But also don’t play the victim. Remember you have to be in control. But we have to feel comfortable talking about our illness with other people. Sometimes that means finding other people going through the same thing we are. I have to admit that I would have never understood the pain and despair until I got sick myself.
10. Feeling guilty about almost everything.
Don’t feel guilty. Again, we did not do this to ourselves. We have to accept that we can’t do everything that we used to do. But that doesn’t stop us from continuing to enjoy life. There is still so much we can do. And those who truly care for us don’t mind. And those who don’t care, don’t matter!