Is it possible to live a ‘normal’ life with a chronic illness?

Hello again to my friends and followers of my Facebook page and my blog. It is wonderful to be here sharing with you again.

I haven’t been able to post for some time due to some health issues that I have been experiencing. This leads me nicely onto the subject of my blog post this week, which is the question of whether or not it is possible to live a ‘normal’ life with a chronic health condition and how this might be achieved.

Now I hear you ask what is ‘normal’? Can anyone ever be ‘normal?

By ‘normal’ I mean being able to function as best as possible on a day-to-day basis. From my own perspective this would mean having the ability to carry out some of the following:

  • Self-care activities: washing, dressing myself and going to the bathroom.
  • Caring for my children
  • Caring for my husband
  • Keeping the household clean and tidy
  • Working
  • Studying

 

When you have a chronic health condition, in my experience symptoms can be unpredictable – varying from day-to-day and sometimes, especially during a pain flare up, symptoms will vary from hour-to-hour and minute-by-minute.

Here are some examples of symptoms of a chronic health condition, sources of the pictures are Pinterest:

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As you can see from these pictures, such a vast array of symptoms and the unpredictability of the symptoms can make functioning during everyday life very difficult and sometimes it may seem almost impossible.

With my own chronic pain I almost went through the grieving process when I first developed my condition. Grief for the physical abilities that I had lost, grief for the things that I couldn’t do for myself and my family (as I went through a period of being bed-bound). Also grief for jobs that I could no longer do and for the friends that I had lost along the way…

Also and probably equally as debilitating for me, were periods of anxiety and depression – wondering how I could live like this and what would the future hold for me.

Gradually over the years I have learnt to manage my chronic pain condition and have built up my physical abilities and stamina. I can now work, study and carry out the day-to-day tasks that I need to. I can lead most of the time what I consider to be a ‘normal’ life.

Here are the top 5 things that have helped me along the way to living a ‘normal’ life.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what has helped you in managing your own condition:

  1. Relationships

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I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband – whose support has helped me immeasurably in managing my condition.

This has been in countless ways, including looking after the children when I have been unable to. Helping managing the household chores when I have not been able to and supporting me in my self-care routines, that I use in managing my pain levels.

I would recommend if you can, seeking out the support of a relative, or a friend.

 

2. Breathworks mindfulness meditation.

 

For those of you that know me or have been following my blog and Facebook page for a while – you will have heard of Breathworks and the legend who is Vidyamala Burch.

Very early on in my chronic pain journey I found the audiobook of Vidyamala’s book Mindfulness for Health. This book is based on the 8-week mindfulness for health program that Breathworks run for people with chronic health and other long-term health conditions.

This book literally saved my life and inspired me onto the life path that I am on now in training to become a counsellor and mindfulness teacher. For this I am truly grateful.

Although meditation won’t take your pain away, it gradually over time, and with consistent daily practice can change your relationship to your pain and make it more manageable.

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2. Counselling

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Regular weekly counselling has been integral in my learning to manage my chronic pain condition and over time accepting it.

Depending upon the approach used by your therapist you may focus on present day issues, such as the emotional impact of your chronic pain on yourself and on other relationships that you have, your work etc… You may also focus on issues from the past that may have contributed to your condition.

In my experience having counselling helped me to feel less alone, validated my feelings and validated my pain, as Doctors were initially very dismissive of my condition and it took a long time to get diagnosed and get the correct medical treatment.

 

4. Attending regular medical check-ups and Hospital appointments

I would recommend finding a sympathetic GP to help you in the management of your chronic pain, or other long-term health condition.

If you don’t currently have a supportive GP, if the option is available to you I would recommend seeing different GP’s in your practice – to see if you can find a more supportive GP.

I would also recommend attending all Hospital appointments and tests offered – as this will help your medical team build up the best possible picture of your symptoms and best be able to care for you.

 

5. Self-care

The final part that has helped me to live a ‘normal’ life is a self-care routine.

Self-care can mean different things to different people. A useful place to start when thinking about self-care is the self-care wheel:

self_care_wheel

There are many different factors that can make up a self-care routine. I would recommend to maybe take one section of the self-care wheel at a time and to work on the suggestions that inspire you.

These activities are designed to help you take best care of yourself and to build up your energy reserves:

Like a car needs petrol to go, we need energy to get us through our day. Self-care is like refuelling your tank - each activity is a deposit in your energy bank!

Some activities that I find very helpful to me include:

Ice skating

Learning to ice-skate in my thirties has been a challenge. However, it is incredibly rewarding to learn a new skill and has been something that I have wanted to do since being a child.

My idols have always been Torvill and Dean.

Walking outside in nature

I absolutely love being outside in nature and find it incredibly calming and healing.

Creativity 

I love creative work, drawing and mindful colouring. It is very absorbing and can be helpful in redirecting attention away from the pain.

 

 

I hope that some of my thoughts have been helpful.

As ever please get inn touch if you have any questions.

I wish you well,

Mary

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