Chronic illness is any condition that lasts for a year or longer. It’s a condition that usually cannot be cured completely although some illnesses can be controlled or managed through lifestyle changes and certain medications.

A short list of examples of chronic illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

The life of someone with a chronic condition is impacted in ways that a healthy person can’t always understand. Someone suffering from celiac disease might not be able to join you for drinks or for dinner because of their diet restrictions. Someone who suffers from migraines might be fine in the morning, but bedridden and in pain by mid-afternoon.

People who have never suffered from a migraine might not know how to be sympathetic toward a migraine sufferer. They might say or think things like “it can’t be that bad.” Because of this, relationships can become strained.

Losing friends over a chronic illness can add to the pain. The emotional toll on someone with the challenges of an ongoing illness can be overwhelming. It’s easy to see why someone living with a chronic illness might also suffer from depression, irritability, helplessness and/or hopelessness.

Here are a few ways to help you live with a chronic illness without developing depression or feelings of hopelessness:

Be involved in your treatment. You can decrease the stress that comes with dealing with your illness by becoming an active participant in your treatment. Explore all treatment options and develop relationships with your treatment providers. Ask questions. It’s also important to have treatment providers you can trust and who make you feel like a priority.

Lean on your family. Carefully choose who you want to tell. Be honest with them about what you are going through and know that they might have questions. It’s important to be open to those questions so that your family has a clear understanding and can better help you. Chances are, your family and friends will want to help. It’s also possible that they won’t know how. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.

Seek the help of a therapist. Regardless of the chronic illness that you are living with, you are going to have some significant reactions and questions to work through. You might not have the coping skills needed in order to deal with your new diagnosis. A therapist can help you through the process. They will know of any support groups in the area. There will be challenges along the way, but there will also be successes. It will be an ongoing journey and you shouldn’t feel alone at any point of it.

To set up an appointment with Reka, you can reach her by phone at 402-881-8125 or by email at You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

photo credit: Nicholas via photopin (license)