two old friends walking together both living with chronic illness

10 Tips for Living with a Chronic Illness

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Living with a chronic illness is very rarely an easy or simple task. From many experiences with patients, I have found that living with a chronic illness is like having a full time job without weekends or vacation days. Have you ever wanted to hire your own secretary just to handle all the appointments, treatments, and medications that your condition demands? Whether it's diabetes, Celiac disease, or depression, a chronic illness requires you to have a well thought-out plan for its management, as well as the tenacity to stick with that plan.

Below are ten general tips that are key topics to consider when dealing with a chronic illness.

10 Tips for Living with a Chronic Illness

  1. Have a vision of your purpose in life. It can be a grand vision (a religious or spiritual calling), or it can be of smaller scale (i.e. living to raise your family). See it, have it in front of you daily, and pursue it with all you've got.
  2. Take the time to find a good doctor. Look for a good GP who can help you manage your illness in its entirety. This is especially important if your illness involves your whole body or cannot be managed by one specialist alone. A good doctor is not always someone you like or have a natural preference for. Instead, look for someone you know will tell you the truth, even if it's hard to hear. A good doctor should not only be knowledgeable enough to tell you what the best and worst treatment options are. They should also know you well enough to know what your real goals are, and to guide you toward those goals when you yourself falter or feel like giving up.
  3. Create your own team of professionals to be part of your managed care. This is important because a lot of players are needed to handle different aspects of a chronic illness. For example, if you have advanced diabetes, you may need an endocrinologist, kidney doctor, and eye doctor in addition to your GP. Seek out occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, and attorneys. If you don't know where to begin, enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend.
  4. Figure out definitively which medications work for you, and which don't. I recently read this inspiring blog post about a young man who took charge of his life by finding just the right dosage of medication for his migraines – even though it took over a year.
  5. Know your body. Know its limits, and know the signs and symptoms that indicate when you're getting close. Pay attention to your triggers, and avoid them. Do what it takes to keep your body in maintenance and prevention mode. This could be in the form of massage, physical or psychological therapy, exercises and sports, or keeping a special diet. Do what works for you!
  6. Make a routine for yourself. A predictable routine is something you can really lean on, especially if your chronic illness has a lot of complicated "parts" that need to be managed.
  7. Talk to someone about what you're going through. It could be a trusted health worker, close friends or family members, or a support group. Don't do this alone. (Try to make it someone in real life; talking in an internet forum or chat does have its place, but it's not the same as putting yourself in front of another human being and speaking to them.)
  8. Read up on your condition, but don't read too much. If you find yourself craving more information about your illness, seek out people who know about it and talk to them. Chat with or e-mail an expert. Ask them for literature they would recommend. Be open to anything new you might learn.
  9. Sometimes, what works for everybody else with your condition may not work for you. Make adjustments particular to yourself, in cooperation with your doctor. Don't worry if your case doesn't sound exactly like the textbook.
  10. Try your best to be considerate of others, to be courteous and patient. This illness can and will wear you down. However, don't make it your excuse to be a cruel person. Instead, strive to give to others by being a good listener, or participating in others' joys and sorrows when you don't feel like it. Doing this, multiple studies have shown, will improve you physically, psychologically, and socially


Honestly, each one of these points could take up their own blog post. I hope that they will be helpful and useful to you. Living with a chronic condition is not an easy task, but it can be done given the right strategies and the proper aid. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. Or, if you have any tips of your own for living with a chronic illness, please feel free to share them. I would love to hear from you.

Featured photo: // All opinions are my own.

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