When we are in pain, it can be hard to do anything. It is hard to concentrate or focus on anything, and even harder to be happy or feel hope. But what happens when you have to live with a chronic illness? What happens if you are suffering in silence, or when no one believes that you are struggling? In this podcast (#218) and blog, I speak with Jordan Younger, top podcast host, blogger and health and wellness influencer, how to manage your mental health when dealing with a chronic health issue, how to help someone who may be struggling, what not to say to someone who has a chronic health issue, how to find peace while living with uncertainty, and more!
From youth, Jordan battled with health issues. For a long time, no one knew what was wrong, even though she saw many doctors and had multiple tests. The medical system had failed her; she was very frustrated and had little hope.
Four years ago, her health completely broke down. She had hives all over her body, a uterine fibroid, and was chronically fatigued. Eventually, Jordan was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and since then has been on a journey learning how to live with a chronic illness and manage her health, which she discusses in her blog.
Lyme disease can come from flea, tick and mosquito bites. It develops from bacteria that is dormant in the body, which can flare up at any time. Not a lot known about it in the public sphere, and many doctors are not aware of its far-reaching health effects, which is why you need to make sure you have a Lyme-literate doctor if have certain symptoms, especially since it is a largely invisible disease (unless you have skin symptoms like hives). There is no cure, but it can be managed when diagnosed.
1. Doesn’t make the illness her identity. If you are battling with a chronic illness, remind yourself that you are not your chronic illness. Your illness is what is happening to you—it does not define you.
2. Reminds herself that there will be difficult days, and that this is okay. On the bad days, Jordan asks herself “who wouldn’t feel this way in these circumstances?”. She doesn’t fight the feelings, as this makes them a lot worse. She accepts them, faces them and works through them.
3. Sees the chronic experience as a gift, not a curse. Jordan believes that her diagnosis is a great learning experience, teaching her how to listen to the messages her body is sending her. She sees it as something that forces her to slow down and rest, and a way to build up her mental resilience, character and strength.
When you have a chronic illness, your perception matters, as it can affect how you handle the illness and its impact on your mental and physical health. Every day is work, and when you change your mind, you can see this work as a challenge and gift, not a burden or curse, which can help your brain and body fight the negative effects of the illness. This is not toxic positivity; it means that even though you have bad days (which are normal!), you can still have hope!
4. Tries different treatments to manage the symptoms of Lyme disease. Jordan is always trying different therapies to find what works for her in the moment, from herbal protocols to stem cells and hyperbaric chambers. She also loves using an infrared sauna for pain relief and general health (for more on this see my recent podcast episode #192and blog), and has found that a vegan anti-inflammatory diet works well for her and helps her manage her chronic illness.
When things get really bad, she has also found conventional treatments like antibiotics are helpful for a short period of time. She understands that there is no one “cure” or one right way to make it go away or heal—different things will work for different people at different times in their lives.
5. Understands that healing is not a one-off thing. Healing from a chronic illness is a journey, so don’t give up if one thing doesn’t work. Be prepared to persist and not just look for a quick-fix cure. Believe in yourself and be your biggest advocate. Believe that you will heal, no matter what people say or what your experiences are. Who knows what will happen, because science is constantly changing! Make a choice to hang onto hope. Mind-management when dealing with chronic illness is essential!
For more on chronic illnesses, Lyme disease and mental health, listen to my podcast with Jordan (episode #218), and check out her blog, podcast and online courses. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
For more mental self-care tips to improve your mental health while dealing with a chronic illness, pre-order my new book 101 Ways to be Less Stressed, which is now on sale at 20% off!
You can also check out my app SWITCH, which is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind if you have a chronic illness, deal with the roots of your mental distress, and overcome thought patterns and behaviors that impact your mental and physical wellbeing through the mental process of reconceptualization.
To learn more about how to manage your mental health while going through a crisis like a chronic illness, register for my Virtual Mental Health Summit this December 3-6! For more see drleafconference.com. CME and CEU credits are available for PA, NP, RN, MD, DO, and certificates of attendance will be given for physical, occupational therapists and social workers!
2:37 What living with a chronic health issues looks like, and how it can affect your mental health
14:00 What Lyme disease is and how it can impact your wellbeing
21:50 How to have hope and protect your mental health while living with a chronic illness
52:08 How good nutrition protects your mental and physical health when dealing with a chronic illness
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