On one hand, we have the Medical community. God bless them. Doctors provide the diagnosis — yours and mine. Sometimes, it can take far longer than it should. But when it is rendered, it is done so with a rather cold approach. Why? That is how they do their job — clinically. Your doctor, no matter his or her credentials, really doesn’t understand the magnitude of what they have just told you. That explains, in part, why they will usually continue talking without a moment’s pause for you to process the news. It’s been my quiet observation that most in the medical community have never dealt, from a personal standpoint, with the afflictions that they treat. So, despite the degrees that line their office wall, they cannot fully appreciate the ramifications. They are not in your shoes.
Reality, on the other hand, has just slapped you hard. The effects are like a shock-wave and seem to blast over everything connected to you — all you hold dear. Your life is changing. It will continue to do so. Some things will never be the same. Treatment alone will provide constant challenges. Things you often took for granted will be a struggle, if you can do them at all. There will be good days and bad. There is and will be pain. Set-backs. More expense. Less energy. Tests. Then, more tests. Exasperation. Limitations. This is your new normal. Your 24/7. It’s your life — not a manila folder! Your loved ones will try to understand, but they too have a limited idea of what you are feeling. In fact, your illness is giving their lives a jolt too. Just when things couldn’t seem to get any worse, you may notice that some friends and co-workers are avoiding you as if you’re contagious. It’s their way of dealing with the fear that one day, heaven forbid, they could find themselves in a similar situation. But it hurts. Your entire life has, in precious little time, turned upside down.
Optimism, or hope, is key to managing any chronic illness. If you have more than one, it is profoundly essential for attaining as much balance in your life as possible. This is more than my humble opinion, or personal experience. This is a widely-accepted fact. Mayo Clinic lists numerous health benefits that come with positive thinking including (but not limited to): increased life span, lower rates of depression, better coping skills, better psychological and physical well-being, etc. And even those who are not optimistic, by nature, are capable of changing their outlook.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, or more than one, you owe it to yourself to utilize every tool that will best enhance your daily living. Your doctor plays one role. Your family, or support system, play another. And the millions who are just like you can help, too.
Those who have walked down this path truly understand how you feel. They are literally taking the same journey. Where you stand, they too have stood. And like me, they will tell you that the key is learning to manage your illness, to make life-changes, etc. You must choose to thrive, rather than to exist. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Dare to care.