How to Live Your Best Life With a Chronic Illness

by Krissy Ward

1. Acknowledge and accept your limitations.

     13 years of living with a chronic illness and I still struggle with this. Acceptance isn’t something you master and get over, it comes and goes. You can go an entire week being completely okay with your limitations and then BOOM; some thing or event sets you back. It’s important to remind yourself that limits are just that. It’s perfectly normal to get mad or be sad; you absolutely have the right to be, but you must not stay in that place. It’s not good for your mental health. 

2. Be Okay with Asking for Help!

     Don’t be too proud to ask for help. I get it. I hate asking for help, especially if it’s something that comes so naturally and easily for able-bodied people. It’s not that I don’t want the help, I just don’t want to NEED the help. If you don’t accept help, you won’t be good for anyone. Remember that asking for help is your gift to them; it helps your loved ones to not feel so helpless in the midst of your health challenges.

3. Learn to Say No!

     Self care is not a luxury, it’s a priority, especially when you’re chronically ill. Your inability to say no when you need to can increase stress level therefore increasing your chances of having a flare. Make sure there is no wiggle room in your “no”. Don’t make people think there’s a possibility you’ll say “yes” down the line. 

4. Be Your Own Advocate. 

     Do your own research. Doctors go to school for this, but we LIVE it. You know what you are experiencing more than anyone else. Take notes when you go to the doctor and make sure you have a list of questions prepared before visiting your doctor so you won’t forget anything important. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself even if it inconveniences others. You have to put yourself first because no one else will. 

5. Do What Makes You Happy.

     Having a chronic illness puts so many limitations on our life, sometimes we just have to say “F*** it” and do what makes you happy. Certain activities can be extremely painful and leave you fatigued, but you have to find out what activities are worth it. Some things are worth being in more pain over if you’re enjoying yourself. We spend so much of our time in pain and agony that we have to take time for ourselves and just live life! 

6. Stop Feeling Guilty!

     It is not your fault that you are sick. You did not do anything to make yourself chronically ill. You are not a burden. You contribute to your friends and family in your own way. Don’t diminish your contributions because they aren’t financial or physical contributions. There are other valid ways to support your loved ones. Remember, those people are around you because they WANT to be. You ARE loved!

7. Create Your Circle. 

     Find people who understand what you’re going through. You need people you can talk to so you won’t feel like you’re going crazy with all these different symptoms. Whether your circle is online or in person, you just need someone you can text when you feel down. “When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘Me, too!’ be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdoes are your tribe.”

8. Learn the Essence of “Bye Felicia!”

     It is completely okay to remove people from your life who don’t support or treat you the way you need and deserve. You aren’t obligated to keep people around who are toxic to your health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. The phrase “Bye, Felicia” comes from the movie “Friday” and is used to get anyone out of your face. If your loved ones refuse to acknowledge that their actions are hurtful, it’s completely okay to walk away from that relationship. Family can be toxic too. 

9. Speak Kinder to Yourself.

For some reason, on bad days, our inner voice is such a jerk. “You aren’t really trying your best”, “You’re a burden”, etc. Whenever that voice creeps up, stop and ask yourself “Would I talk to my friend like this? What would I say to my friend?” Be your inner friend and be kind to yourself. Your inner voice will diminish more and more and your Friend voice will make more appearances.