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Chronic Illness and Mental Health

01 July 2021

The US National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic illness as a disease lasting three months or longer. Approximately 133 million of Americans representing 40% of the country’s total population has a chronic illness with 40 million of which have limited function due to symptoms of a chronic health condition. This is projected to inflate to approximately 157 million where 81 million of which have multiple chronic conditions. That is around half of the country’s population.

So how does it feel to be living with diagnosed chronic illness?

It is a general understanding that it is difficult to live and work with chronic illness. However, since people do not see persons with chronic illness tied to a wheelchair they begin to doubt and dismiss invisible disabilities as just being overdramatic. This may impact the mental health of people with chronic illness apart from the disease itself.

There may be laws against discrimination, but it does not wholly protect people with invisible disabilities to be treated fairly or allowed accommodations so that they can work comfortably. Some of them even report having pains even from sitting in office chairs that are not ergonomic. 

While others may dislocate joints after a few minutes making it difficult to be productive, which they can be if given some accommodation and understanding. It is even more difficult for those undiagnosed since a lot of times, it takes years to get a correct diagnosis and you would just have to live with the pain and wonder why your body doesn’t work the way it should without proper medications. 

However, these difficulties are not a write-off for their entire lives. A lot of people with chronic illness found purpose and meaningful work to support themselves. Mostly, remote work and setting up their own sole proprietorship businesses. Here are a few tips that people with chronic pain or illness may use to live a positive and fulfilling life.

  • Firstly, self-care starts when you are educated with the condition that you are going to live with for a long time, for some even all their life. Your symptoms and what triggers it, your options for treatment and its pros and cons, support groups that can connect you with like-minded and similarly abled people are all good starting points. 
  • Your doctor can provide you specific information not only about your medication but managing your life with your condition, so don’t be afraid or intimidated to ask questions. 
  • The same goes for your support groups and friends from those kinds of groups. But also take time to weigh in and be prudent in choosing what would work for you. Remember that people experience similar things differently. 

So other people's lifestyle choices may work for them but not for you. However, it will help you understand their experience and be further informed about your condition. 

  • You also need to be observant of your body and the changes that it goes through especially with your current medication. As with advice, not everything recommended could work with your body and it may not react well or be receptive to the medicinal value it claims. 

Apart from that, note any side effects and tell your doctor about it. One adolescent was prescribed medication to manage bipolar disorder and her body adversely reacted by being afflicted with the very painful Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome.

So it would be helpful to observe and keep a diary of how you feel and what effect your medication has had on you. Then, share it with your health provider or doctor.

Having a chronic illness would have some sort of psychological effect especially upon learning of the diagnosis. Some would feel like it is a death sentence, some would feel despair, some would think that their entire life would be put on hold because of the disease. 

  • For the last one, it might have some tinge of truth to it but life is how you make it and for sure you will find a way to get around the circumstances that make things difficult for you. Although, not if it has a negative effect on your health and safety. 

This is where mental self-care should start. There are different ways to manage extreme emotions being dealt with for anybody and not just for people with chronic illnesses. The good thing is you can experiment with what is conducive to your well-being and create a routine to keep you going. 

Some of the things that you can do are stretching and working out. Not only would it release happy hormones, but it would also boost your immune system so your body can naturally fight disease along with medication and proper meals. Doing the hobbies that you enjoy and doing some breathing and meditation exercises would stabilize your mood and keep your focus on the positives.

Spending quality time not only with your family, your friends, support groups would be good for you. Some people would be in a circumstance or situation that might be difficult. However, since human beings are social animals, interaction with people and the sense of belongingness would be good for one's mental health which in turn would also be good for your physical health. Managing your relationships also means focusing on the relationships that are important and beneficial for you. The ones that add stress and negative feelings should be let go. Lastly, create an environment that is conducive to living with what kind of chronic illness you have. 

Your home, your bedroom, your home office, or where you work is your sanctuary and it must be a place of convenience and safety for you. The Big and Tall  Reclining Executive Office Chair with Footrest 290  from FlexiSpot has features that would make essential activities like checking your mail and doing work on your computer comfortable and bearable compared to chairs that are not as ergonomic. 

It has a high weight capacity of up to 359 lbs and has adjustable back support. It has a thick padded headrest and armrest for maximum safety and comfort. It has a soft removable pillow so you can take care of your back and shoulders.