Today I am going to share with you a very valuable video I had the pleasure of viewing recently. The only downside is that I wish I would have got to see this early on in my disease process. The video I am sharing is by Amanda Pratt LCSW. Amanda is a chronic illness therapist at http://www.imaginelifetherapy.com/ She know what it is like to have to suffer from multiple chronic illnesses. I always appreciate when I am getting advice from someone who can relate. I highly recommend watching the whole video. I am going to turn this discussion into a 3 post series where I break down the things Amanda discussed in the video and share some of my personal experiences with these points.
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Posted by Imagine Life Therapy on Sunday, March 24, 2019
I’m sure that if you are like me, a lot of things in this video hit home. For those who want to take notes, I am going to discuss her first 4 phases of the chronic illness journey and how it effects your mental health.
Phase 1:Crisis mode> here we have chaos, the onset of the illness, need for relief
Phase 2:Stabilization Phase> here your symptoms plateau, you are becoming familiar with the disease, still chaos, and you are still trying to be who you were before illness.
Phase 3:Resolution>learning how the illness behaves, making changes, adjusting to life with illness, major realization of a new “normal” coming, start to recreate your personal self.
Phase 4:Integration>Reintegration of past self and new self, new self management of illness, it starts to get more predictable, arrive at a new whole life where illness is integrated.
YOU REALIZE YOU CAN STILL LIVE A FULL LIFE WHERE ILLNESS IS INTEGRATED
Well I don’t know where you are in your journey, but I know I went through every one of those steps. It took me a while too. I got sick in 2014 and just recently have gotten to step 4, so it took me about 4 years in my journey. I still revert at times with the whole “identity” issue. I went from being a dental hygienist and bodybuilder to someone that barely gets off the couch. I still want to be productive for my family. I also had a real love for fitness and I see posts by other competitors getting ready for competition and experience grief. I long to be who I use to be. There are many hills and valleys in this journey. I think it is normal to be accepting one day and fall apart on another.
It is very common for chronic illness and depression to go hand in hand. Illness can create a sense of grief and loss. Once you get through the initial crisis, you need to start focusing on what you can control. Amanda recommends making small changes, take one day at a time, and always focus on basic needs first.
The next roadblock one may fall into is all the cultural factors involved. There are attitudes, beliefs, and social norms that contribute to how people respond to those with chronic illness or disability. There tends to be a low tolerance for suffering. You may run into medical providers that use their power and authority in a negative way. Some believe that people bring illness onto themselves. Others look down on you because they feel you are a strain on economic resources. The media influence and distribution of false information of disease can hurt you.
FACING A WORLD OF STIGMA
Quite frankly, ignorance leads to the stigmas. Let’s face it, other people’s ignorance can be destructive to your mental health. Most people judging don’t have a clue about the illness. Stigma is a judgement about a characteristic of a person that can’t be changed. And then we get to what is personally my biggest pitfall. I may get up on a soap box for this one. If so, reel me in. The infamous “It’s all in your head” I don’t know how many times I heard that growing up. I hated when my father told me that and I hate it even more when Doctors say that. The doctors that don’t know what is going on with you because you don’t fit into their “box” of any certain illness, always fall back on mental illness, or the blame game that you are making things up. This is where my face gets red.
Then you have the people who judge you for how you treat your disease. You get judged if you take to many pharmaceuticals. You get judged if you go the natural route as being a hippie or quack. Let’s not forget those helpful comments people give like: “It must be nice not having to go to work.” Nope it is not nice at all not having the ability to do things and then listen to comments like that.
Then you run into the people who tell you they know somebody with the same thing you got and they cured it with: diet/supplements/exercise/prayer……….. This again places the blame on the patient and minimizes their problem down to a simple solution without any real knowledge of their problem.
Our next posts we will be discussing trauma. In later posts we will have discussions on coping mechanisms to get through those grief periods. I hope you enjoyed this and stay tuned for the continuation of this series.