Suffering through any kind of illness isn’t easy. If it’s something big and disruptive, it can become downright impossible to find the strength to cope without proper support. Most of us never expect to get sick in the first place, and finding out the bad news is a punch to the gut that can send us into a tailspin. We don’t know where to go, who to turn to, how to get better, or how to accept the new reality.
Regardless of whether your illness is something temporary, something that will follow you for the rest of your life, or even something that will make your life shorter than you expected, there are ways to keep feel better about the situation you’re in. With a few positive life changes and strategies to manage your illness, you can lift some of the burdens that’s been weighing you down and feel happy again.
Why me? How could this happen? It’s not fair!
Sadness, rage, fear, impotence – feel what you need to feel. Injuries and sicknesses take us by surprise. It’s normal to feel completely terrified, and you absolutely don’t need to hide your emotions right now. Emotions are impossible to process if you keep them bottled up, and all that repressed anger and sadness will bubble over at some point if you attempt to keep them contained. So, take time to process your feelings and don’t hide from the facts that are staring at you right in the face – this is really happening. As hard as it is, you’ll need to accept it.
No one should ever be without support if they’re battling an illness, especially if it’s something as serious as cancer. You need to reach out to your friends, family, and even professional psychotherapists if you need to because right now you need to know you’ll get the help you need. There are also online resources and organizations that you can contact – for example, the Hong Kong cancer fund website has plenty of information that you can use to educate yourself about your illness (or get professional help if you live in Hong Kong).
If you’re from the US, you can contact the American Cancer Society, and if you’re from the UK, you can reach out to the Macmillan Cancer Support Group. If you’re battling a different type of illness, we still recommend that you do some research and find a proper support group for yourself. If there’s no organization in your area, then contact people online.
If you know that recovery is a long way away or may not even be possible at all, then you need to take a deep breath and give yourself some time. Don’t ever try to rush recovery or push your body past its abilities – now’s the time to treat it kindly and patiently.
You might have to change your life for a while, or even forever. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can develop a comfortable routine and learn to deal with the hardships your illness is causing you. Being open to change can make a huge difference and turn a hopeless situation into something that’s actually working out for you.
Even if some damage has been done to your health, it doesn’t mean that all is lost. In fact, taking extra special care of your health right now can make it easier to handle the illness and even help you reduce pain or get back to your feet sooner.
Remember to get a good night’s sleep every night, eat well, and try to engage in as much physical activity as your doctor allows.
Stress is difficult for the healthiest of people, let alone someone who’s battling a serious illness. Managing it is crucial, and there are plenty of ways you can do that. From engaging in creative activities such as painting and singing, to meditation, light physical activity, or slow walks through nature.
Your illness is tough. You deserve better than this. But sadly, there’s nothing to be gained if you focus only on the pain. What we’d like to gently suggest instead, is to give your life as much meaning as it had before you got sick. Take up a neglected hobby, learn something new and interesting, or get involved with a new community. Your illness doesn’t have to define you. You still get to have a meaningful life and be happy.
Don’t push people away. It might be your first instinct to try and “spare” them of having to be around you, but trust us, no one wants to abandon you. Just allow them to stay close and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Staying connected to your loved ones is more important than ever before.
What you’re going through is hard. Even though you didn’t have much choice, you’re brave for dealing with this and persevering. It will get easier as time goes by, you just need to be gentle and patient with yourself.