A life-changing diagnosis can be daunting. These tips will help you come up with a health plan.
Posted in , May 2, 2017
I started having physical symptoms of an illness when I was just twenty. After six months of being put through the medical ringer I was finally diagnosed with two chronic illnesses, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Lyme Disease. At the time they didn’t seem like a big deal. It was relief to have a diagnosis after I had spent so much time trying to identify my problems. But identifying my issues was the easy part. It’s been over six years since the onset of my symptoms and I’m still recovering.
I’ve been in situations that have felt overwhelming and I often deal with the feeling of being stuck in this body that seems adamant on not functioning properly. But having endured so much not only medically, but also socially over the years, I’m much better at coping with every new development thrown my way. If you or someone you love has received your own diagnosis I’d like to share some tips to help you cope with the new situation.
1) Create a Medical Plan
Keep a copy of all your medical records in one place. You will want this information when you visit any doctor, when you want to compare medical testing, or if you are in any type of emergency.
You should also research the best specialists in your area for your specific illness. You may visit multiple doctors, so make sure that they are all familiar with your illness. It is also important to loop in your primary care physician; they will most likely collect your medical information and will also have to know everything in case some new problem arises.
It is really imperative that you find a medical advocate, be it a friend or family member. This person should have your best interests in mind and be willing to help you with your medical responsibilities, such as to going to doctor’s appointments with you. They can take notes, remind you of any questions, and help calm the situation.
2) Shed the Stress
Your immune system is no longer that of a healthy person and stress can be the biggest culprit when it comes to triggering illnesses, triggering more symptoms, or keeping your illness from getting better.
Getting rid of stress is not easy, especially when your illness is one of the biggest sources of it. However, easing the stressors of your everyday life can help.
If you find your job is too stressful and keeping you ill, try creating a plan with your employer, such as going part-time. If that doesn’t help, it may be time to look for a job that is more compatible with a work-life balance. This can be a really difficult change, especially if you have worked hard to get where you are, but when it comes to your health you don’t want to work yourself to the point that you eventually can no longer hold a job at all.
If your home life has too much going on, don’t be hesitant to ask for help. If you have the means, it might also be worth it to enlist services that make your life easier, such as a home cleaning service. These days you can find help for almost anything at the touch of a button.
Hopefully, you do not have an illness that makes it too hard to function in either of these areas, but if you do, it is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m still in this situation and honestly the best thing you can do is focus on getting better.
3) Find your Friends
You are no longer the same person you were before in that you now have limitations. You will not always feel well enough to do the things you did before. You may go through periods where your mood is understandably worse than normal. And all of that is okay and normal.
Unfortunately, over time you will find that while some people are compassionate and understanding, others will eventually find you not worth the effort. Actually losing friends can take a toll; you just need to remember that you still have other friends that are still considerate of you. Cherish these friends because they will be the ones willing to stand by you no matter what.
4) Use the Internet Wisely
The Internet can be a great resource. You may find additional information about your condition or you may locate foundations or organizations that offer more resources for those who have your diagnosis. But it can also be a rabbit hole. Make sure that the information is coming from respected sources. If you find new treatment suggestions that interest you, bring them up with your doctor.
You can find people in the same situation as you, which is great! Finding a safe space to talk about your illness is hard, so joining groups online can be an asset. You just have to be careful when it comes to comparing your situation to others and also learning about other treatment options.
Some people will have it easier than you and some will have it harder, but comparing yourself to them doesn’t do anyone any good. Don’t forget that your own situation and feelings are valid!
5) Seek Professional Help
Now that you have a diagnosis, acceptance may be the hardest part since you have lost control over a part of your life. Relying on others might leave you feeling useless or even hopeless. It’s also easy to feel like you are alone in your situation. So if you ever feel like you are at a point that you simply can’t cope, see a therapist or attend a local support group for chronic illness.