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Solutions and Support for Emotional Struggles with Chronic Illness

I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but it won't always be like this blue text on pink backgroundI have been lost on my healing path.

Things can be new when you are blazing your own trail, you are making discoveries and covering new ground.

A few years ago I was lost in an emotional forest, looking up at the trees of my fears and desperation around me. It was dark and cold there, I’d lost the path and could see no escape.

Where are you?

Have you been there lost in the emotional forest? Are you there now? I know sometimes it feels like nothing can reach you through the trees and if thats the case, then I want to give you something to hold onto, a talisman to keep you warm until you are ready to find your way out. That talisman is this: It won’t always be like this, I promise. (Click to tweet).

If you are stuck in the emotional forest but have been peering around the branches and trying to leave then I’m throwing you a torch and don’t worry, I left a trail of breadcrumbs from my time in there. We can just follow those right out, together.

Light in the darkness

For me, when I realised the I felt my emotions but they were not me. It was a revelation. Before this I had been totally at their mercy, being wracked by them, back and fore, wandering around in the tangles of my mind.
There was such a sense of relief and it was as if some light came through the branches on my healing journey and I could see the path and see that there was a path and a way out.
You are not your emotions.

They are happening inside you, a little like how a storm crashes through a forest. It whips everything up, tears trees down and makes a big mess. It hurts, it’s devastating, but the forest recovers from it and you can too.

Mapping the struggles

So what do we encounter in our path through the forest? As it’s a winding path, we can turn the corner and our Trail Blazing path is blocked by a tree in the way. Here are some of the trees you may have to deal with and some tips about navigating a path through them.

Today we are going to look at some of the emotions that naturally arise when we receive or are living with a chronic diagnosis. Some of these emotions you may recognise as being part of a grieving process. We do grieve, we grieve the loss of our old lives, the person we were and the opportunities we had. This is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, there is a popular idea that people tend to go to stages of grief in a certain order, or indeed that they will go through all the stages. This isn’t the case (it’s not as simple as that, you are not as simple as that, glorious as you are in your stunning intellect and complexity).

For this reason I am discussing the emotions out of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s order, to redress any expectations about stages. You could feel one or even all of these emotions. You could get stuck on one or jump back and forth between them, it’s all about you.

Dealing with denial.

Denial can be a reaction that hits us ‘oh, no it can’t be so, I won’t believe it’, but it can also be a habit and a lifestyle (top tip: don’t go there). It’s just so, so tempting. It can be easier to think that the hospital has made a mistake (it does SO happen, *stamps foot*), that you will be better by Christmas and get your life back. That you aren’t really ill, not like, those ill people you see.

Here’s the thing; denial, quite apart from being tiresome for everyone around you, is exhausting. Maintaining the mask, keeping the thoughts, the worries and truth shut out, fighting against reality; it takes it out of you.

And you are so precious you don’t have that time and energy to waste, we need you.

As humans we are limited resources and I believe in you are your potential. Perhaps you can’t see it but I can, and I done this for a living, but there is magic inside you. Potential flows from your finger tips and spirals through your cells.

Turning emotions into a positive project

I know you want to get back to your old life.

I also know you’ve been trying for a while now and it’s not working. (click to tweet)

But here’s another option:

Allowing yourself to pass through the emotions and think,”My life has been turned upside down. I’m grieving it, but if everything I knew and thought is gone, if things are broken then that means I have to rebuild.”

“Things are different now and I can no longer create the life I had. This means I get to choose, I can dream of what I desire and build a life around this.”

Believe me, few people get to do this, most fall into lives and some are living out plans which may have fitted 10 year ago but don’t reflect who they are now.

You are in a special position, something has come into your life, a chronic pain or difficult diagnosis and it is clearing away all you knew but that also gives you the opportunity to check into what you desire and create that.

That humming inside you is your soul longing to express itself away and let me tell you, that glowing spark of Divinity inside you doesn’t care if you can walk or not. It doesn’t consider how many limbs you have or whether you have to be hooked up to dialysis 5 times a week or if you think that the chronic pain means you can’t do anything. There is always a way. You are ready now and you deserve this.

So grab your dictaphone or a nice sharp pencil and start now:

* What do you want to feel?
* What would you ideal day look like?
* If illness, money worries and other struggles didn’t exist, if you could do anything, what would you do?
* What are you moved to create in the world?

Creative expressions are accessible to us all, they can reignite your passion for life, give you a path out of depression and express your struggles therapeutically. Be excited, begin now.

Remember, your intention is magical, and you need to dream here. Then take one step, if you want to feel relaxed and flexible, maybe getting on your yoga mat in shavasana pose and visualising some yoga movements to ease your aches would get you closer.

Today you are dreaming and taking one step, we’ll get back to the practicalities.

Get on the list so you don’t miss it.

Adjusting our Anger.

You have a right to your emotions, all of them, including the less picturesque ones, and anger is normal.

It could be blazing or latent, our anger around illness can be directed to towards the world, the perceived cause of our illness, ourselves, our families, partners, the doctors, God or whatever higher power we conceive.

Anger can make us feel like a volcano about to erupt because we have to deal with the illness while so many ‘healthy’ people just carry on with their lives and never get sick. It’s that deep need to pick someone up and shake them when they ask for the thousandth time if you’ll ever get better. The hot, boiling anger that there’s no easy solution when there really should be. It’s the time you want to scream when you discover something else you can’t do now.

What to do?

There are some things you can do to help manage when you feel like you’ve swapped your self for a head of pure white hot anger.

* When the anger is pulsing, energetic and all consuming, let it out in a safe and non violent way.
* Try scrumpling and tearing paper.
* Take a big sheet of paper and scribble hard.
* Write down all your thoughts and feelings then release them by tearing up the paper.
* Or write down everything you’re angry about and make a date to burn the paper.
* Throw ice cubes against a wall, they make a very satisfying shattering sound.
* Let all your anger out and rant at the wall, pour all the anger into your journal.
* Create a ritual around your anger, the validity of your emotions and the relief of release.
* Talk it through with somebody who can listen and put things in perspective.

Ask for help

Longer term, reach out and ask for help. We often get anger and frustrated about how difficult things are. When we ask for the help we need to make the things we can no longer do alone easier, or more accessible, all those people who said, “Let me know if there is anything I can do”, can now be given a task. They’ll feel less impotent because they are helping and you won’t be trying to sleep in damp pyjamas because you can’t reach the washing line to dry them.

What could you ask for help with?

Someone could….

• Pick up food for you when they go shopping.
• Collect prescriptions.
• Accompany you to hospital appointments and take notes on medical terms, treatment options, doctors names, recommended books, prescriptions, appointment times, dates, directions and advice. Or record the appointment with the dictaphone app on a smart phone.
• Get you some books from the library.
• Make you a box of treats and deliver it to you in person (without mentioning the fact that you are still in your pyjamas at 4pm or the stack of washing up next to the sink).
• Send you lovely stories they read in the paper, (they’ll love doing this too).
• Drawing you a warm bath.
• Suggesting you switch your weekly cinema date to a film at your house, or ask for friends to write you a chatty friendly email without expecting a reply, in other words, making friendship accessible.
• Babysitting the baby, dog or similar so you can rest. Pick people who love dogs and babies but perhaps don’t have any of their own for this. They might love to borrow yours for an afternoon.
• Make double the food and taking one half to your house every other day.
• Give you a pedicure with hot pink polish so your toes at least make you smile.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for reading this. I hope it is of some use.

If you enjoyed it, please share it with your support groups and friends who are ill or struggling. We all know someone, let’s make their days easier.

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