Learning that you have a chronic illness takes you through several phases before you are actually able to cope with living and accepting that your life will forever be different. The initial diagnosis brings on different feelings and it is important to allow your mind and heart to go through those feelings at its own pace. You may feel the following:
- Afraid and confused
- Ashamed and embarrassed
- You may wondered “why me, or what did I do wrong?”
- How will my life ever be the same again?
- You may feel overwhelmed and want to learn everything about your condition
These are all normal feelings and over time will pass. Just remember to be gentle and kind to yourself as go through the emotions.
Understanding chronic illnesses (diseases) is a very important factor to becoming more comfortable with your life changing. Chronic illnesses happen to people unexpectedly and are often times not caused by the person actions. The illness cannot be spread from person to person and cannot be prevented or cured by medication. One common example is asthma.
- Sometimes the cause of your illness is unknown
- The illness may be hereditary
- You may have been exposed to something in the environment that caused the illness
The uplifting part is that as you learn more about the chronic illness you learn how to care for yourself and how to adjust your life. You learn to manage the illness not let the illness manage you.
How I Live With Multiple Sclerosis
For almost a decade I have struggled, and coped with a seemly invisible illness that attacks me at what feels like the most vulnerable times of my life. I was afraid, ashamed, and embarrassed. I have been called a fake, a cripple and humiliated at my workplace. Followed and questioned by complete strangers as I exited my handicapped license plated car to enter a restaurant with my family. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is so cruel I don’t think there is a part in your life that it can come for you when you are not vulnerable, it alone always makes you vulnerable. It tries to take away your worth, your independence, and your dignity. With undeniable strength and will, I refuse to let it eat away at the core of who I am.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, typically progressive disease that damages the sheaths that cover the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. You can have symptoms which include numbness, impairment of speech, loss of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue. Basically I have several lesions all over my brain and spine that prevent my brain from telling other parts of my body how to functions properly. The cause of MS is still unknown, and I have undergone several types of treatments to try and maintain a steady lifestyle, all of which have side effects that I won’t begin to discuss here.
Living With MS: Staying happy through my Chronic Illness
In the beginning and honestly at times now I get angry. I didn’t understand why my life had to change, but it did so I had to roll with the punches. There have been many punches, but with each blow I’ve gotten stronger and more fierce. There are days that are harder than others and there are times that are “my normal”. I’ve come to grips with realizing that my life will never be what it was before, but it can still be the absolute best.
A long lasting condition such as multiple sclerosis can leave you feeling uncertain about the future. I lived that way for many years. I was afraid and always planning for the next relapse. After a few very bad relapses and devastating setbacks, I realized it wasn’t anything in my life I could plan for except to live the most healthy lifestyle as possible. At that point I decided to have another a child. Having my son bought me the most joy I’d experienced in such a long time. Of course my doctors warned me of the added stress and fatigue that would come along with having a baby and yes I am living those moments. But each sleepless night is worth the happiness I feel when I look into his precious eyes. I find happiness in my small family, my husband and children. Every chronic illness has it challenges, you have to find your happiness within that challenge. Each year I find something different about mine.
After you have accepted your always changing life with a chronic illness, it maybe time to jump in the driver’s seat. It took me a few years to get the hang of things and at times I still struggle, but I think I have this monster tamed. MS comes with so much uncertainty that it is important to find areas where you can take control. There are places in your life that are essential for you to hold tight and closed. Finances, adapting your home to your comfort level, your employment (if you are working), and your eating habits are a few that I need to keep a watch on at all times. It is very important to have your health and life insurance in order. Always make sure you understand your health insurance and prescription drug coverage. The worse thing is to relapse or get sick and your family does not understand the order of your finances. These are uncomfortable conversations to have, but have them and have them often while you are in a healthy state so everyone is on the same page.
If you are struggling with how your chronic illness is impacting your life, work, or relationships it is important to reach out of help. Talk it over with someone you trust or seek counseling. In many cases you may just need to talk it out or you may need to leave situations that are too stressful. Unhealthy work environments and relationships can be bad for your overall health.
The last thing that has helped me over the past almost 10 years is knowing that with each day I am still alive and doing well. The biggest joy is knowing I am a fighter and now I am brave enough to share my story to help others.