Caravan Sonnet: 11 Simple Tips for Living Well With a Chronic Illness

5/11/17

11 Simple Tips for Living Well With a Chronic Illness

1. Be Upfront and Clear About Your Limitations
No matter the response you receive make sure that you are upfront and clear about what your limitations are with your illness. To be honest this was a hard thing for me to learn at the beginning of this journey as my heart wanted to go and live like I had been before I got sick. Unfortunately when I wasn't clear everything ended up more of a mess and usually resulted in me crying. Learning to be upfront and clear about my limitations helped me to put down boundary lines that have truly helped me heal. I know that sometimes this can be hard to do, especially if you don't receive the support you hope to, but continue to be firm but kind with your limitations. I promise that overtime this is one of the best things you can do to live well with a chronic illness.

2. Accept Help. 

3. Share specific Things that Others Can Help You With
The difficult thing with illness is that often times loved ones truly don't know how they can specifically help someone in a health crisis. Find ways to lovingly share specifically what your loved ones can do. A friend of mine who struggles with extreme back pain due to a failed surgery found that asking her for help with her laundry saved her countless days in bed after she attempts to do it. Personally for me I have been so grateful for my dad helping me with changing Scamper's litter. It might be something small or it may be something bigger on a routine basis, but think through ways that others can help and then as mentioned in #2, accept the help. 

4. Be Vulnerable With Your Tribe
It can be hard to be vulnerable when you are feeling so sick and tired with pain and sickness. I know that a lot of us want to put on a brave face with those that we encounter, but having the courage to be vulnerable can be a life-changing situation for living well with a chronic illness. Having this courage can help prevent a lot of awkward issues from occurring during this journey. Take the leap of faith and express your heart. 

5. Be Patient With Explaining The Health Lingo
As patients we become so familiar with spouting off all of the different terms, nicknames, meds, supplements, cell interaction, cell pathways, symptoms, etc. that it can be hard to remember that our friends and family can be left feeling overwhelmed and dizzy by the amount of things we are talking about. Even though our lives may revolve around the sickness aspect, theirs revolve around us. They want to understand and they do care, but we may need to extend some patience as we have to explain something again and again. Be patient and understand that they are doing the best they can.

6. Be the Best Friend and Family Member that You Can Be. 
It can be hard to keep up with all of the important dates in people's lives since you became ill. Sometimes we are just trying to cope with the day let alone remember to purchase a card or a gift for someone. Despite the way that illness has changed you fight to still be the best friend that you can be. This may look different than before you got sick, but still take the time to connect with others, make phone calls, send cards, and deepen your friendships. Stay connected in every way possible to your tribe. Honestly, I haven't done the best job of this over the years. Maybe you feel the same way. It is never to late to re-start. Take the time today to make a phone call or write a letter. I promise you will be glad you did. 

7. Do the Best You Can to Attend Events
You may not be able to attend them all or even a handful, but try to attend all of the important events that you can. Even if you don't feel or look the best, people will be thrilled to see you and it is great for your life. 

8. Understand That This is a Season
There will be beautiful days again. Hold on to the hope that there are far better things ahead than we could ever imagine.

9. Acceptance
For every single person struggling with a chronic illness this is going to mean something different, but Amy Carmichael was right: "in acceptance lies peace". 

10. Let Friends Go
Let the people go who are not willing to walk this journey with you. Let them go freely and give your blessing. Forgive and live in joy. Wish them well, let go of the bitterness, and walk the road in front of you with dignity. Stick to the Code. (Yes, I did feel like I was quoting the Pirates of the Caribbean saying that. hahaha, but seriously, Stick to the Code,

11. Find Joy in Every Day.
There is joy to be found in every single day if we look for it. Look for it. Search it out. Fight for it. You will never regret finding joy.

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