How to Stay Optimistic with Chronic Illness

blog, Wellness Jul 19, 2017

Chronic illness is a fact of life for about half of American adults, a statistic that has been steadily and tragically growing over the past few decades. It isn’t just poor health and trouble coping with any number of crippling symptoms. It’s also a deep mental anguish that too often transforms from a feeling to a disorder.

Illness and pain come in many shapes and sizes. Some are far more common than others, such as type-I diabetes and arthritis. Others are less common, such as inflammatory bowel diseases or chronic fatigue syndrome. Yet they all share the fact that they’re debilitating, to the point where leading a life of optimism with such a diagnosis shackled to one’s legs can seem like a pipedream.

Yet many make it happen anyway. Not out of sheer bullheadedness, but out of a love for life perpetuated through gratitude and unhindered by bouts of pain and struggle. It’s not just possible to stay optimistic and happy while struggling with a chronic illness – it is necessary if you want to successfully live with the diagnosis.

Acknowledging the Pain of Chronic Illness

We’re not here to make light of anybody’s situation when we say that it’s important to look on the bright side of things when struggling with a chronic illness. We know exactly how terrible they can be, and just how much life and happiness they soak up and raze to the ground.

The definition of a chronic illness is that it is a long-term disease that can last years or even indefinitely, and progressively become harder to combat. These diseases often leave people with disabilities, or secondary conditions including chronic pain. For those who are diagnosed with one, living with it will be their greatest challenge. Like great big wall, it can encompass your entire field of vision. It can hog every detail of your life, and separate you from what could be a great life.

Not all chronic illnesses start out with the same severity, or share that severity from case to case. However, their progressive nature and tendency to last for years or even decades means anyone struck with the diagnosis of a chronic illness will be struggling immensely. Yet in every case, optimism plays a vital role.

Why Optimism Makes a Difference

Chronic illnesses aren’t just a simple diagnosis, like many other diseases. They are notorious for the fact that they’re hard to treat, and can sometimes be untreatable altogether. A chronic condition instead must be managed, and – this is key – lived with.

When confronting something like kidney failure or an open wound, modern medicine can spring to action to ease suffering, kill the pain, and heal the patient. But we can’t just erase chronic illnesses or prevent them through vaccines. All we can do is help ease the long-term suffering of a patient and advise them on the best way to live through life as unhindered as possible.

It’s not rational to hold out for hope that your condition will receive a miracle cure. This sudden sentencing of being given a crippling disease with no guarantee of recovery and no rhyme or reason, can drive people over the edge and off a cliff into the realms of depression and anxiety.

In many ways, it’s not just that the illness itself makes it hard to live a happy life. Our outlook, and our perspective on life makes it hard to live a happy life. That’s why it’s so critical to find optimism, because without it, there’s no hope of “beating” the illness, and of living life to whatever its fullest potential may be in your case.

Then again, a lot of “hot air” and pleasant words won’t do you much good against the reality that you’re stuck finding a way to be happy and grateful while struggling with a long-term illness you didn’t deserve. But there are many ways to cultivate that gratitude, and move on from a life of pessimism and anger to a life of joy.

Boosting Positivity While Ill

Positive Attitude When Ill | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

First, optimism isn’t about rejecting reality. It’s not about going against nature with force and stubbornness. It’s about rationally realizing the facts of your current limitations, and still finding a way to enjoy yourself and be happy despite them. Chronic illnesses don’t just weaken you physically, they wage war on you mentally. You must fight back by first accepting your new reality, rather than being consumed by anger and sadness over it.

That’s the first step, and it’s the hardest. From there, it’s a matter of improving – and celebrating each improvement – while doing your best to find new ways to circumvent your limitations and still find enjoyment in life, wherever you can find it.

Therapy is important here, not just mentally, but physically. While many chronic illnesses are progressive, you can – with slow and steady therapy – make gains in quality of life. Some illnesses possess a chance of slow recovery through surgery, while others have symptoms are manageable through medication. For every bit of mobility and change, celebrate. And for every setback, remember that it’s fine to be sad and angry – for a time. Huddle up, do something you can do and love doing, and surround yourself with people who can help cheer you up. Focus on the positivity you might have experienced elsewhere in life.

Even the “small” things matter. Being able to walk up a flight of stairs, leave the house, carry some groceries, make some tea, walk your pet. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter if other people consider it normal. To you, it may be an improvement – and that’s something to be grateful for.

Inspire and Be Inspired

When you can stand up and face your illness with the tenacity and courage to deny it of all the negativity it usually brings, you’re a hero. Not just to yourself, for saving yourself from the pain of constantly bearing that unnecessary emotional weight on your back, but others, for making it clear to them that it’s okay to be sick and happy. In fact, it’s important.

Heroes don’t wear capes. They don’t lift entire buildings or leap from rooftop to rooftop – heroes are saviors. They meddle in people’s lives by becoming a positive influence, a paragon of positivity. Heroes are people who can prove that the odds don’t mean anything when you have human spirit.

You won’t be able to inspire everyone to look on the brighter side of things. Not everyone will see benefits to focusing on the silver lining of their great dark storm – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Most people sadly can’t hold out for a cure to their illness, and may constantly be in pain. Either it hasn’t been developed yet, or the treatment is outside their price range. The reality for millions of Americans is that they must learn to live with their illness. No one wants to. But being able to do so – and still enjoy life, making the most of every moment – takes a lot of strength. It will help others see past the pain and towards the potentially brighter days.

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