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There are some things we just don’t want to face or talk about, and one of them is a long-term illness or chronic condition that impacts your lifestyle in a drastic manner.
We all have to make peace with the unpredictability of life. Admittedly, it’s much easier to process this when health serves you well. Most people don’t have the capacity to look in the eye of chaos that is existence until they’re struck by a malady which reminds them just how fragile we are. Once this happens, there is at least the first line of good news you can latch onto – you now have a chance to establish a newfound appreciation of life in a humbling way that you simply could not process beforehand.
Ultimately, if you let this positive emotion overwhelm you, you’ll open the doors for a surge of energy which will help you battle whatever obstacles come your way. Every person that has endured through a long-term illness or chronic condition will tell you that (unfortunately) nothing else in the world builds such strong, foundational willpower. The worst thing you can do is adopt the victimhood mindset and let it slide you down the slippery slope of nihilistic thinking.
Thankfully, the mind is resilient. There are countless cognitive mechanisms you can use to your advantage to avoid the victimhood mentality even when matters can’t get more calamitous.
You are not alone
It’s important to acknowledge, and really embrace the sentiment that you’re not alone in your fight. There are many
individuals around the world that either share the exact same condition with you or, at the very least, have a malady that is on par with your own. Likewise, you can turn to the best examples of such individuals in order to avoid feeling like a victim.
Let’s be honest: it’s extremely easy to adopt the role of victimhood, but we all know where that road ends. It has been medically proven time and time again that a positive attitude does wonders for your physical health, mental health, and longevity outlook.
At the end of the day, we all stand on a level playing field – at a certain point, tragedy will strike and, when all is said and done, our lives will end. According to this, the end-point remains the same: you should do the best you can with the time you have. Whether you’re looking at four months or four decades ahead of you, depending on the severity of the illness, your best option is to make an effort to live your best life.
Find constructive habits
Now, in order to improve your outlook with chronic illness in tow, you’ll be strongly encouraged to change lifestyle habits.
While the news and the expectations will certainly present a shock to the system, this is actually a good opportunity to wipe the plate clean and rebuild your life with constructive habits. Grab this opportunity as fast as you can. Admittedly, it is a balancing act between utilitarianism and hedonism (the latter of which you absolutely deserve), but if others could achieve it, so can you.
For example, there’s a range of autoimmune conditions concerning the gut that can be considered chronic and life-threatening unless you change your diet completely. These types of conditions require patients to adapt to a completely new way of eating, which is done by sticking to an AIP meal plan or a broad carb-free/gluten-free diet. Although there are countless positive aspects of these diets you can focus on, like gourmet meals and delicious dishes, getting used to a new dietary regime will still take plenty of conscious effort.
No matter how strongly you rationalize the adaptation to a constructive habit, your mind will rebel against the idea of such a change, causing a confusing range of emotions. This is why – and this is the crucial step – you should not repress intense negative emotions.
Allow yourself intense emotions
Everything about the situation is unfair, and you have every right to feel bitter about it. To maintain a grip on your
mind and your life, you have to do something that might sound counterintuitive shortly after you’ve been diagnosed: you need to allow yourself to feel intense negative emotions.
We might need to rephrase this since you will feel angry and grieve no matter what: do not try to hold back anything and find ways to vent it all out. Just don’t hurt anyone’s feelings along the way.
This decompression is absolutely crucial for taking control further down the line. You’ll constantly rewind the film in your mind and ask yourself if you could see the signs sooner. This will also prompt you to dwell on the past and how matters were better before the diagnosis. It’s a natural part of the grieving process, but you should put a certain time-limit on this stage. For example, you can let yourself rage for a full week, but then you have to turn to the “great now” and try to make the best out of the situation.
Mind the stages
This all builds into a mental journey of a person faced with unfavorable odds, and if you want to avoid the victimhood mindset, you need to be perfectly aware of the sequence of stages that await you. While the awareness will not stop you from feeling all the emotions (and it shouldn’t), it will keep you somewhat sober through the process.
As you embark on this journey, keep in mind that you’ll have to take a wholesome approach to healing your mind, body, and soul. And it will be a continuous process.
Additional Note: The division into these three stages is not a rule by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, it is a convenient way to observe emotions you will go through. There are many ways to divide this mental journey, and it shouldn’t be confused with the five stages of grief since this topic deals with a broader subject of chronic illness.
The First Stage
In the initial stage, you’ll feel a dreadful mixture of frustrations. Despair, coupled with an endless stream of questions, will plague your mind to the point that you might start feeling abandoned and obsessed with finding answers. This is a stage when you should absolutely avoid going online.
The Second Stage
The second stage is bound to give you whiplash as you experience the rollercoaster of highs and lows. This occurs because your mind is slowly “adding” the chronic illness into the “existence equation,” even if you still feel that you’re not prepared to fully accept the reality of the situation.
The crux of the issue here is facing the fact that the immediate future sinks or swims based on how committed you become to the set plan of treatment. Bear in mind that this initiative that life requires of you is by no means something new – it’s just that you’re feeling a new level of pressure on your decision-making capabilities.
But don’t worry – there are medical professionals and people from your private life there to support you, and no matter how abandoned you subjectively feel, they will be eager to help.
The Third Stage
The third phase comes once you finally feel resolved to tackle the chronic illness and fully embrace it as part of your life, with radical zeal. Be mindful of feeling a sense of resolution – this is a fictitious feeling, and your mind might be playing tricks on you. No chronic illness is ever completely resolved or cured, but rather managed. You have to adapt the fighter mentality and refuse to give in.
Nothing is easy about the road ahead, but then again, life is not easy. True, you are facing a more difficult endeavor filled with dreadful prospects and tumultuous changes, but the bottom line is always reflected in the answer to one question: Do you still have the fight in you?
The answer to this question unequivocally depends on you, and nobody can choose the answer instead of you. What will it be?