Blogger Nikki Albert recently wrote about learning to cope with chronic pain brought on by an invisible illness. Here is some insight she shared with her readers…
If you have been diagnosed with an invisible illness you will go through a roller-coaster of emotions from guilt, depression, frustration and, yes, acceptance. That which is not visible to others can be doubted, leading those to suffer in silence, feel ashamed and become isolated. So how does one effectively live with an invisible illness? Aside from wearing a sign on your forehead or screaming in agony?
First of all do not get lost in the past of the good old days when you could do so much more, be so much more. If you try to maintain the same lifestyle with the same goals you are setting yourself up for more suffering and stress. Then comes the guilt for not being what you feel you should be, what you believe society expects you to be and what your family expects you to be. You must define your limitations and live a lifestyle that suits you, whether that be changing your career or altering your lifestyle habits. It is not a matter of lowering your expectations, it is a matter of being realistic.
Do not let guilt cripple you. Avoid thinking such “must” and “should” statements that define your assumptions of what it is to be a functioning member of society. Guilt is powerful. There will be times you feel like you have let down your coworkers, your boss and your loved ones. Your health and coping with your illness should be at the top of your list.
Make simple lifestyle changes that can improve your health. This can be simple things like mild to moderate exercise, such as going for walks. Try out some alternative methods to add to medications like massage therapy, and yoga.
Never underestimate your emotional well being. Invisible disabilities and chronic pain take a huge toll. Seeing a psychologist is an excellent idea. Not because you are crazy. Not because “it is all in your head.” Simply to have someone guide you to positive coping strategies. We all develop coping strategies and defense mechanisms but the fact is some of them are counterproductive or maladaptive.
When it comes to family and friends, the inclination to underestimate our pain or not talk about it at all is there because we do not want to burden those we love when they cannot do anything to help us. However, developing a simple way to communicate your level of pain everyday will allow family and friends to know where you are at, know when you need comfort and know when to leave you to have some peace. It can be as simple as having them ask you “what is your pain level today” or have a system of marking it on a calendar so that everyone knows where you are at.
Finally, you will need an outlet for your pent up emotions that is satisfying and healthy. Venting in a journal is a fine idea, since you are getting out all those frustrations and may feel better once they are released. Support groups and online communities are helpful for you to vent your frustrations and to ask for ways to cope, or simply for some support from readers who know what you endure. Living Healthy 360 10/7/13