|Living With A Chronic Illness|
|Thursday, 14 October 2010 23:02|
Properly diagnosing a chronic illness can take anywhere from two to three years. Many of you wait even longer. In the meantime, while the doctors scratch their heads, we’re expected to be happy we’re alive. And that’s if they don’t write us off with “It’s psychological.” According to Dr. Elvira Aletta, if you are experiencing symptoms but don’t have a diagnosis yet, here are some tips that she hopes will help you get through this trying time a little easier.
Trust yourself. You are not crazy. Physicians have referred many people to psychologists before they had a diagnosis, even doctors who don’t know what else to do for their patients. As she notes, Medicine is slowly catching up to the experience of hundreds of thousands of people reporting symptoms for which there is no hard, “objective” test.
Learn who you can confide in and who it’s best not to. Your loved ones may be among those who have doubts, especially if you don’t look sick. They may not understand that there is a lot the science side of medicine just doesn’t know or needs a lot of time to figure out. Many chronic illnesses develop slowly and the symptoms overlap. There are few ‘hard, objective’ diagnostic tests that rule-out or rule-in a particular disease. Your family and friends may also be frustrated and confused. For those who are open to it, you can try educating them to this process. To those who aren’t, avoid them like kryptonite. They will suck away your precious energy.
If anyone, friend, foe or doctor, tells you any variation of “It’s all in your head,” please, resist the urge to spit in their eye. On the other hand, getting angry and defensive on your behalf is better than doubting yourself and becoming depressed. Just regulate your anger so that you don’t alienate the very people you need. Do that by being direct, controlled and civil when you say, “That makes me angry.” Then let it go.
When your doctor tells you to go to a psychotherapist, try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some doctors will refer you to a psychologist because they truly believe it would benefit you to talk to a professional who can help you cope as they try to figure out what is going on medically. That is great. Take the referral and try it out.
On the other hand, many doctors will tell you to see a shrink because they don’t know what else to do with you. It could be your anxiety, depression and anger makes them uncomfortable. Sad but true. That doesn’t devalue the benefit of a good therapist.
Finally, as hard as it is, nurture yourself. As a chronic illness patient you will be telling your story to a million people, a million times. You will visit a gaggle of doctors, nurses, lab technicians, receptionists, offices and hospitals. You will fill out reams of forms, give up quarts of blood and pee, be poked and prodded, dress and undress a thousand times. It is exhausting.
Stop long enough to replenish yourself body and soul. If you pray, pray. If you meditate, meditate. Give yourself a pity party for twenty minutes (no longer), complete with chocolate! Then, for God’s sake, laugh! And if you have just one person, place or thing that eases you back to your peaceful place, be grateful and spend time there.
Above all, listen to your gut.
Source: Aletta, E (2010), "“It’s All In Your Head:” Living with Chronic Illness", Psych Central; viewed online here.