11 September 2011 ~ 12 Comments

7 Lessons I have Learned from being Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness


  1. Be patient with yourself and know that you probably won’t get well overnight. It can take months and even years to experience some sense of normalcy again and some people never do, but they learn to adapt. Remember that life may never be the same again. Don’t be afraid to mourn your old life, but gradually acclimatise yourself to the new, which may even include some changes for the better. In my case, I was relieved to finally get a diagnosis and thus an explanation for my uncontrolled weight gain and tiredness. It gave me hope that my condition could improve and that I might find relief for my symptoms.
  2. On that note, look through each cloud to see the silver lining. No doubt about it, chronic illness is devastating, but I can honestly say that in some ways it has changed my life for the better. As a result of my diagnosis, I live a healthier lifestyle (workouts with my personal trainer), eat an even healthier (allergen-free) diet and I have made countless wonderful friends that remind me that I am never alone. What’s more I have learned SO much about my body and health in general, enabling me to not only help myself, but to help others by sharing my research with them through online forums and in particular my website Butterflies and Phoenixes.
  3. Doctors are our partners and can at best provide us with the tools, knowledge and support to get well, but never blindly trust in their words and always, always be your own advocate. You cannot solely rely on a doctor to get you well. The road back to good health is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Treatment is rarely simple and there are often accompanying conditions, so it has been up to me to be my own medical detective and insist on the treatment I know I need and deserve. If a doctor patronises you, lacks the necessary knowledge or refuses to treat you with respect, don’t be afraid to kick them to the curb. After all, it is you who is paying them for a service! Persevere and realise that it may take time to find the right doctor for you.
  4. Each patient is different and there is no “magic pill”. For instance, whilst one may be helped by a certain treatment, another may find they experience no improvement in symptoms whatsoever. Listen to your body and your instincts. Likewise, don’t compare yourself to other patients. We all have our own battles to fight and can never truly walk in another’s shoes. Don’t feel bad because your symptoms sound less severe than someone else’s. This doesn’t invalidate your own suffering.
  5. Make the most of each and every day. Some days we can live life to the fullest and the next day we may suffer a relapse or be bedbound. Cherish each moment.
  6. Don’t be discouraged by those who refuse to take your illness seriously. Sad but true: many people are ignorant and uneducated and there’s often a lack of awareness about many “invisible” illnesses (i.e. you are sick inside, but look “fine” on the outside). Even sadder, but equally true: some of these people will often include your own friends and family.
  7. Never give up hope, take time to laugh and remain positive! You owe it to yourself to fight to get well.

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