It Is Well With My Soul

If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual roller-coaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace their condition. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?

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A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your religious beliefs.

Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in trying times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. The things they so easily took for granted, they want again. Yearn for it. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … growing as individuals … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.

Thanks to modern medicine, today, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Awareness must go on to educate others. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. We cannot control human nature. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes —  to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or when you married? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. Then again, in a weird sort of way, maybe it is. I have always enjoyed a challenge. But, at the end of the day, it is well with my soul. And that peace is priceless.

 

 

Reference Links:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html

http://www.jennifermartinpsych.com/yourcolorlooksgoodblog/2013/09/the-five-stages-of-grief-for-chronic.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-affliction.html

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/diseases-bible

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

*Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Wants & Needs: There Is A Difference

Nowadays, a lot of people seem to be confused by the meaning of “essentials”. They are assuming that “wants” and “needs” are the same thing. But, in reality, these things are very different. Our needs are necessary, i.e. shelter, food, water, air. Our wants are often materialistic desires, i.e. a designer handbag, a new set of golf clubs, new furniture, etc. As nice as these things are, they aren’t necessary for our survival. When we confuse our needs and wants, we can actually do more harm than good. Let’s talk about that …

 

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If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, you learn the difference between wants and needs pretty quickly. It’s how you effectively manage your illness. You may want that 16-ounce T-bone with a loaded baked potato, for dinner. But, as a diabetic, it’s not the best choice for you. Yes, you need to eat. But you don’t need to send your blood-sugar into outer space. See the difference? It’s important to think and choose, carefully.

If you are an asthma patient, you may want to indulge in a day of hiking. You want to enjoy the mountain scenery, the beauty of nature, etc. But, with asthma, you need to avoid outdoor exercise when pollen counts are high. Yes, you need exercise. So, pick an option that is safer to enjoy. Maybe, a treadmill? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some days, I want Reese’s peanut butter cups or Lindt truffles. And, depending upon my mood, it can really feel like a need. Medicinal chocolate? Sort of? The argument can be made that plain dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy. Unfortunately, no such data exists for pb cups or truffles. Damn. When you have a Chronic illness, you need your medication. You don’t need Broadway tickets. You may want them, but you don’t need them. You need healthcare coverage. That luxury cruise … it’s a want too. And we must place our needs before our wants.

Now, we have COVID-19 to think about. It has forced additional lifestyle changes on all of us. Avoid the urge to emotionally comfort yourself with online splurges, or unnecessary shopping trips. The expenses do add up and the risks are too great. Some can cause financial burden. Others can be life-threatening. Avoid the excess use of alcohol. It can lead to additional problems. If you are already living with alcoholism, the COVID-19 crisis can put your sobriety at risk. You don’t need that — turn to your Support Group instead. 

To those who are bored or lonely, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Talk. Laugh. Send texts. Bond. Pull those nearly forgotten board-games out of the closet, dust them off and play. Watch your favorite DVD. Read a good book. Start a hobby, or return to an old one. Instead of stressing over the changes, or creating additional hardships, keep it simple. Focus on your needs. Because if you have these essentials, you have the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/wants-vs-needs-in-psychology.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/therapy-in-mind/201208/key-happiness-focus-what-you-need-not-what-you-want

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkay/2017/03/21/finding-the-balance-between-needs-vs-wants/#5439926b4b11

https://psychcentral.com/blog/needs-vs-wants-american-style/

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

https://www.alcohol.org/resources/coronavirus-and-alcoholism/

*Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

 

Do I Look Like A Guinea Pig?

When you live with a Chronic illness, you get used to periodically taking tests. Blood-work is probably the most common, but there are others too. It’s part of managing your disease. And you get used to taking medications. But have you ever wondered: How much is too much? Have you ever felt like a guinea pig instead of a patient? Unfortunately, millions of people have. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment is becoming a serious healthcare problem.

For example, in a 2014 analysis report, researchers noted that about 40% of adults worldwide have Hypertension. And more than half of them have mild cases of the disease (meaning they’re at low risk and don’t have existing cardiovascular disease). Yet, half of the patients with mild cases were being given blood pressure-lowering drugs (even though there is no research on whether this reduces cardiovascular-related disease and death). Let that sink in, for a moment. Researchers argue that this “overtreatment” is unnecessary. And it costs over $32B a year, in the U.S. alone! 

 

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You may be thinking that it’s better to err on the side of caution. But can we actually call overdiagnosis a cautionary move? Personally, I don’t think so. According to the NCBI, overdiagnosis is “the diagnosis of a medical condition that would never have caused any symptoms or problems”. Aside from unnecessary treatment, this type of diagnosis can also lead to harmful issues of stress and anxiety.

For the record, overdiagnosis is not a misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis is when a doctor says cancer, but what the patient actually has is a benign cyst. Overdiagnosis is the correct diagnosis. But it is diagnosing illnesses that may never actually make you sick. Most screening tests can lead to overdiagnosis. This is not to say that you should avoid having tests. They can and have proved to be vital to our health. But if you are starting to feel like a guinea pig, it could be time to seek a second opinion. If you question a diagnosis, then listen to that little inner-voice that’s eating at you — get a second opinion. Your health may be better for doing so.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, there are 5 things you should know about seeking a second opinion:

  • They’re less common than you think.
  • Your doctor won’t be mad.
  • You may need to make your priorities known.
  • The first opinion may affect the second.
  • You may need to bridge a communications breakdown.

It may feel awkward to ask for one, but this is your health. Your life. Your right. 

If you are sick and actually experiencing symptoms, you need treatment. That’s a given. But, today, we are seeing growing numbers of overtreatment. This encompasses a wide range of healthcare, from routine tests to surgeries. A study published in September of 2017, estimated that 21% of medical care is unnecessary. This leads to more medical expenses, higher insurance costs, more medications, stress, anxiety, possibly even financial hardship for many patients. And none of us needs that.

So before you nod your head and go along with whatever is being said, remember … you aren’t a guinea pig! Speak up. Ask questions. Seek a second opinion.  It’s your body and your health. You deserve good, quality care — not bad medicine!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/how-unnecessary-tests-scans-procedures-and-surgeries-are-affecting-your-patients

https://time.com/3379349/overdiagnosis-and-overtreatment/

https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5432

https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/five-things-you-may-not-know-about-second-opinions

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430655/

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2014/07/23/a-patients-guide-to-second-opinions

*Photo by Katherine McAdoo on Unsplash