When you are diagnosed with an illness, it can be a scary, overwhelming, confusing time. You may find yourself feeling lost and lonely while you try to navigate a new world, with new habits, changes to your daily schedule, and things to consider, on top of symptoms that may be uncomfortable or debilitating. Here are four suggestions to consider while you navigate a new normal.
Hint: One of the most important things is and always will be to have compassion for yourself!
“Your self-love is a medicine for the earth.” – Yung Pueblo
1. Become informed, but from all sides.
When you first become diagnosed with an illness, there are so many feelings that can come forward. If you have been feeling unwell for a while without an answer, you may feel simultaneously relieved, overwhelmed, and afraid. If your illness is new, acute, and severe, you may feel afraid of the unknown and as if you are spiraling due to all of the sudden changes.
Well-meaning friends, doctors, and Google sites may talk to you about the worst case scenario – likely, because they want to prepare you and they want you to feel supported. It is OK to hear about worst case scenarios, and it is important to be informed, but try to remember both sides of the coin. While there is worst case, there is also best case scenario, and in the bell curve of life, you are more likely to land in the in-between. Just as there are stories that are heartbreaking and scary, there are also stories of overcoming, coping well, and being cured. Try to take in both.
“Hope is the thing with feathers – that perches in the soul- and sings the tune without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
2. Set up supports of all kinds.
With a new diagnosis, there are so many unknowns and several life changes, in addition to uncomfortable symptoms. This combination can be overwhelming and exhausting. The brain appreciates routine and knowing what to expect. During a time when it is hard to know what to expect, try to set up parts of your life that do run on a schedule. Examples of this might include calling the same friend every Tuesday night for a chat, walking your dog at the same time every morning, even having the same smoothie with your breakfast every morning, while you wake up with the same book, podcast, or television show you enjoy. During a time when so much is in the air, try to ground yourself with supports – both tactile (your favorite blanket, clothing, even your favorite soap when showering) and emotional (a friend to call, time with your pet, uplifting blogs, podcasts, and books) on a schedule.
Related: When Your Medical History Haunts You
“You don’t always have to be grateful it isn’t worse.” – Unknown
3. Be patient with yourself.
OK, I know – I can feel you rolling your eyes from here. It is not easy to be patient with yourself when you feel like your body is failing you. Try to remember that even when things are going wrong, your body is your friend. If you have an autoimmune condition, your body is trying very hard to fight something. It does not realize it is not fighting the right thing, but it is trying to protect you. If you have cancer, your body tried really hard to fight off these cells that changed. It is still trying. Your body is a one man army against a whole troop. But, it is trying, and it will keep trying for you. Being patient with yourself, and with your body, doesn’t mean not feeling sad, or angry, or frustrated. It means trying to stay in the moment. Remember you are trying your best, and forgiving yourself – and your body – if and when it is harder to do things you are usually used to doing.
Related: The Hardest Parts of Being Undiagnosed
“I realized there is no shame in being honest. There is no shame in being vulnerable. It is the beauty of being human.”- Unknown
4. Don’t pressure yourself to be positive all the time.
Positivity is great. It is important to be positive, as thinking of the best case scenario and having a sunny outlook has been proven, scientifically, to boost your immune system and to assist your body to heal. However, when your body is hurting, it can feel overwhelming – especially if you are feeling the losses of what your life looked and felt like before becoming diagnosed.
Remember, you don’t need to be positive all the time, but being consistently hopeful is helpful. Remaining positive is wonderful, but remember: It does not mean being happy all the time. You can be sad, frustrated, and worried, but still be positive it will work out.
Honor your feelings, honor your truth, and honor and let in space for hope- while not beating yourself up for not being happy all the time.
Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on the hard days, you know that there are better ones coming.
I am wishing you peace, and hoping you honor yourself with grace. You and your body deserve it.
“I love that this morning’s sunrise does not define itself by last night’s sunset.” – Unknown
Getty Image by ChuangTzuDreaming