Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Having a Voice, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Negotiating with Your Illness

Throughout our lives we all come up with ways of coping with stress.  Over time as our stressors increase we may have to devise new and improved methods of coping.  I can’t think of anything more stressful than receiving a chronic or life-threatening illness diagnosis.  This is the time to call out the big guns…don’t be shy, get creative.

One of the most creative strategies came from a man in one of my support groups.  “V” was HIV+ and had an AIDS diagnosis yet his health was reasonably good.  He came to group a lot less consumed by his illness than some of his other group members so I decided to ask what strategy was he using to minimize the impact of stress on the body.  His strategy involved negotiation.

He explained that the virus was feeding off his cells.  If he died the virus would die.  The negotiation was that if the virus let him live they could find a way to co-habitate.  This may seem outrageous but for “V” it was a win-win situation.   He felt in control of his life and the choices regarding treatment.  He was on a maintenance schedule of treatment, he wasn’t getting better and he wasn’t getting worse.

The inner dialogue empowered him.  He felt that this inner agreement would allow him to move forward in his life without having to always live defensively.  The illness wasn’t his enemy…trust me, they weren’t friends either, but they found a middle ground of co-existence.

The dialogue  was ongoing.  They, “V” and the virus would have regular pow wows to discuss the state of both their lives.  The visualization/dialogue process seemed to work for both, not the virus spoke to the world, but they had their own secret language.

What types of coping mechanisms are you developing on your journey to wellness?  Why reinvent the wheel, share so others can gain from your experience.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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