Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, living with chronic illness

As Good As It Gets

In many cases, when diagnosed with a chronic illness it’s because you’ve had symptoms and they were probably escalating.  Aside from illnesses like asthma and diabetes that are more easily assessed; many of the illnesses may resemble one another making a definitive diagnosis more difficult.  You may have disregarded the beginning symptoms believing they weren’t really anything to worry about but the symptoms became exaggerated, more frequent, and even if they disappear for a period of time they return with a vengeance.

You begin treatment and the symptoms subside, maybe even disappear and that’s quite a relief.  You silently wish, maybe even pray that you’re finished with this chapter of your life and lo and behold the symptoms reappear.  We use the word “chronic” for a reason, because it is like a revolving door, symptoms…health…symptoms…health.  You may be one of those chronic illness patients whose symptoms never really disappear, but diminish in their intensity and impact.  You adhere to treatment regimen and you get results.  There is improvement and your quality of life increases.  You breathe a sigh of relief even though you’d like the symptoms to totally disappear.  So the big question is, “What if this is as good as it get?”

Being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease over 35 years ago I have experienced the entire continuum of symptom regression to total symptom expression.  I ask myself frequently, “how will I live my life is this (the current state of my body) is as good as it get”.  It becomes almost a mantra because a part of me says if I resign myself to this level of illness expression am I giving up hope that all my symptoms will disappear. 

The obvious answer is, I wish I were symptom free, but it really has become a matter of “how do the symptoms impact my quality of life?”  It’s not only about my physical health, but my emotional and spiritual wellness.  I’ve learned over the years how to combat feelings of sadness and depression.  I’ve learned and practice ways to increase my spiritual stamina so I don’t feel all alone on this journey.  It’s not about resigning oneself to living with an illness, but the acceptance that I can create the life I want to live by acquiring the external and internal resources I need to live a good life.

What resources do you need?  What if this is as good as it gets, how will you create a new normal?  How can you live the best life possible knowing that you may have ups and downs, remissions and flares, and emotional and spiritual challenges all along the way?  These are important questions that can’t be answered on the spot; so think about it and see what surfaces.

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