Friday, May 25, 2012

5 Priorities After a New Illness Diagnosis

[1] Get in touch with the national foundation or organization that is dedicated to supporting people who live with a chronic illness that you have recently been diagnosed with. Explain to them that you have just found out about your diagnosis and that you would like the most basic information. They may drop some brochures to you in the mail or send you to their website.

Although you might feel as though you have not yet accepted the fact that this illness may be a long-term part of your life, it is important to go ahead and sign up for a membership to be on their mailing list. You can always toss the information or save it for later when you are ready to emotionally process it. But you will find that they will have the most current and objective information regarding scientific research and treatment options. As your doctor suggests medications for you to take, and you are reading the long list of side effects--and maybe questioning their judgment--these organizations will be your best source of information.

[2] Know when to stop reading about your disease. There are millions of books, websites, podcasts, and more which will tell you how you can cure it, delay the progression of the disease, or most effectively treated with alternative treatments. The important thing is to glance over critical health and illness organizational websites so you are aware of where you can go to find information when you need it.

You should be aware of some of the symptoms that may occur because of your illness so that if they do occur, you can attribute them to it. However, don't bury yourself in reading everything you can get your hands on. It will simply become too depressing, and many of the anecdotes that other people share may never apply to your life.

[3] Don't lose hope. As with my illnesses, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid arthritis, and most others, there are daily scientific discoveries that can change the prognosis of the disease.

Even if your disease did not have an immediate cure, even just knowing your exact DNA, which is on the verge of discovery, will be able to help you pinpoint exactly which drug will best treat your disease without having to switch from one drug to another and lose money, and sometimes years, while figuring out which one works best. Having consistent help and a positive outlook on living life fully despite your illness will have a profound effect on your level of contentment.

[4] It's important that you have a safe place where you can talk about what you are experiencing emotionally and spiritually, while coming to terms with your new normal living with a chronic illness. This person may be someone who you have met in an online forum for your illness, or it could be someone such as a mentor, pastor, counselor, or even a good friend who is able to listen without judgment. It's most important that you find a place where you can talk about what you are experiencing without judgment or comments such as "no pain, no gain." Also, call and find out about local support groups for your illness, or other support environments such as HopeKeepers, which is a Christian support group for those with illness or pain.

Also, consider your personality and how you are best encouraged. Would you feel most refreshed by sharing what you are going through with just a friend, one-on-one, at a coffeehouse? Or are you homebound, and signing onto a website every day to receive encouragement and prayer would be beneficial? Remember, whatever works best for you at this time, may not best meet your needs in six months, so do not feel like you are stuck with a particular group or decision.. Be willing to try new forms of support to find which best works for you.

[5] Ask yourself? "What foundation do I have in my life that will help me through the difficulties that I will be facing?" Even if your illness does not progress rapidly, the daily aches and pains, as well as the emotional roller coaster and spiritual "why?" questions you will have, will leave you searching for a deeper meaning in life than simply solving your problem with a cup of hot tea. As a Christian myself, I honestly do not know how people live each day with a chronic exasperating illness who do not know the Lord.

This is what keeps me together: believing that my pain is never wasted, and that God always has a purpose and plan for it; acknowledging that God is always in control of my life and that of my circumstances come as a surprise to Him; and firmly surrendering to the fact that He has any specific purpose for my life and that any limitations I have experienced because of my illness will not hinder His plans. Even if you are not a spiritual person, you will likely find yourself facing those middle of the night blues, and I encourage you to look up a biblical websites like Bible Gateway and read through some of the Psalms. If you are unfamiliar with them you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to see that most of the people who live during these times faced severe hardships, deep depression, many doubts, and yes, even chronic illnesses and disabilities.

So to summarize, choose your information wisely, set personal boundaries for how much information you will read, keep hope, find a support system, and then search for that which will get you through the darkest of times when the information and people you have relied on disappoint you. You must discover a purpose in the pain that is greater than that which our world will tell you. Don't ever put life on hold. As the late John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

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