When you have a chronic illness, it can put you in a vulnerable position. Not only the financial cost of being sick, but the emotional toll. Friends and family members may turn away when you are chronically ill, because unlike a normal illness, this doesn’t end. Some people do not know how to deal with someone who is always hurting, or frequently down. This lack of support system at a time you really need help and your own guilt about not holding up what you feel is your end of the bargain, can really damage a person’s life.
One of the major issues we face, other than coping with the disease itself is our sense of worth. First is the isolation, it can cause, and the loss of self-esteem, pride and self-worth. Then we can have our thyroid itself messing with our emotions. This can lead to depression, anxiety and in some cases suicide. It can cause people to give up. There are resources that can help with this first issue. Assuming that you are insured and able to at least get your basic medical issues taken care of, the next step is finding a good counselor. There are many different schools of therapy out there, so you may have to investigate more than one to find out who might be a good match.
A lot of people have gotten the thought that only broken people or crazy people need therapy. When what it can be is a release valve to help you learn coping skills so your life is LESS stressful. It can provide you with a sounding board so that you can know if your thinking on a subject is healthy or not and if not how to start changing it so you can better cope with your life as it is. What people do not realize is with a chronic illness, you really go through a mourning period. What happens is that the old you no longer exists. You no longer are the healthy person who can ignore most health issues as they will go away. They won’t go away and it can be dangerous to ignore. No one teaches you how to deal with a change of that magnitude. Not only that, but how do you deal with family and friends when your life has changed? Do you know how to set boundaries with others, so that you don’t add to your stress, thus keeping yourself healthier? How do you keep yourself calm when a flare up of your illness hits? These are all questions that a good counselor can help you answer. It also helps to be able to vent to someone who is not a family or friend at least once a month or so to get all the aches, pains, etc out of your system a bit.
First thing to figure out is: do you open up better by yourself or with other people to lead the way. Individual counseling will be better for someone who feels more comfortable talking about things one on one in a private session. There are many different types of therapy with this, so call and ask a potential counselor what type of therapy they usually practice and what is involved. Some therapists have you do homework and writing to work through issues. Others will do hypnotherapy, putting you in a relaxed state of mind and suggesting to your subconscious things that will help you cope better. Still others will have you talk about your past and try to work through past experiences to keep them from interfering in the present. There are even some who work with visual images to help your mind deal with issues, doing visual imagery to work through a problem.
For other people, it’s easier to find a group therapy session and attend one with others. Listening to others deal with issues similar to yours, can help some people feel safe to open up and talk about their own issues. It has the added bonus of allowing someone to hear about what others are going through and therefore, not feeling like they are the only one dealing with that problem and hear about how other people deal with similar issues. If this is you, check out your local counseling organization, such as www.goodtherapy.org or www.find-a-therapist.com to see what is available.
Here are some top reasons that a counselor can be helpful to a person with a chronic illness:
- Help you come to terms with your new life as a person with a chronic illness
- Learn new ways to cope with stress
- Overcome fears or insecurities
- Become more confident in dealing with others
- Learn how to set boundaries with others for your health
- Understand yourself better, the Why of You
- Designated person to vent to and relieve stress
- Healthier relationships with others
- Identify which is your illness causing mood swings and which is you
- Find a mentally healthy you!