When you’re living with chronic disease or multiple chronic conditions, you can spend a great deal of time worrying about your health and feeling overwhelmed as you try to tackle the symptoms of chronic disease. What can you do to help with managing your mental health when the pressures get to you and you feel like you’re at the end of your rope?
Living with a chronic disease or battling multiple chronic conditions is never easy. In fact, some days it can feel like it’s the end of the world.
Not only are you dealing with the expectations of daily life - work, family, schedules, etc. - but you have the additional weight of trying to cope with your symptoms and the reality of managing your mental health throughout your situation.
You push through, thinking you've just hit a bad patch that will go away, but it can eventually feel like you're often left waiting for that silver lining.
The worst part is that those around you sympathize, but have no clue what you're actually going through. Some people make you feel like you're being lazy or just not trying hard enough. Others may think you're trying to make excuses to get out of doing some random task or work assignment.
It can seem as if people don’t realize that you didn’t choose to feel this way.
Add that to the stress you already feel about having health problems in the first place, and who wouldn't want to throw their hands in the air and just give up?
What Is Okay When It Comes to Managing Your Mental Health?
You shouldn't have to feel guilty about living with chronic disease or conditions.
No one knows better than you what you are going through and how it is affecting your physical and mental health. It is okay for you to have good days and bad days. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired.
It is hard to get to that point of self-acceptance, and even when you do, you have to fight to keep reminding yourself that it is okay if your patient journey doesn’t look like someone else’s.
Some people will handle a chronic illness or condition better than others. Some will hide their frustrations better than others. Your patient journey and your experience with your health issues are your own.
Dealing with multiple health problems, especially those that require a lot of self-management, symptoms that impact your daily life, or illnesses that are long-term and may not have a positive outcome in sight, is trying.
Support meetings and therapy sessions can only do so much. There may be times when you feel you are alone in the world and it's never going to end.
...And What Isn’t Okay
What isn’t okay, or at the very least shouldn’t be something you allow to be okay, is giving up.
How can you throw your hands in the air if you haven't tried everything you can possibly do to make your life better? How can you know what’s left to do or what digital health technology or medical advancements may lie ahead that could make life better?
There is always the hope of an opportunity to explore a new possible cause for the various symptoms of your chronic disease or condition, or to research new alternative therapies and medicines that even your own doctor didn’t immediately suggest.
When you're dealing with something that in many ways is out of your control, grab control where you can.
The following are some strategies that can help with managing your mental health and not giving up on yourself while living with chronic disease or conditions.
Ask Questions Concerning Your Chronic Conditions and Health
- Are you happy with your treatment? Have you expressed your feelings to your doctor?
- Do you have questions about your treatment that you haven’t asked?
- Have you received a second opinion?
- Are you staying active in ways that you can? Are there specific exercises your doctor would advise that can have a positive impact on your symptoms or even your mood?
- Are you eating better? Are there special diets that can make a difference? Could you try removing certain foods from your diet to see if the change helps? Are you lacking in a certain nutrient that could be replenished by making smarter food choices or taking supplements as directed by your doctor?
- Are you as familiar with the medications you take as you should be? Are there side effects to your prescriptions that could be making your situation worse? Maybe some of your feelings of depression are tied to a particular medication. Perhaps the medication you take is known to affect people in different ways depending on the time of day they are taken, and your doctor can advise you about making a change.
- Are you trying physical therapy, massage, or acupuncture?
- Have you asked the tough questions - the ones you may not want to hear the answers to?
- Have you discussed your mental health with your doctor?
Even if the answers to these questions don’t get you where you want to go, at least you tried.
Be the Expert About Your Own Health
Information is power. How much do you know about your chronic disease or condition? How much do you know about your medications and the reasons you’ve been prescribed a certain treatment plan?
Do you have access to your medical records? Do all your healthcare providers have access to them?
Everyone who is part of your care team or in charge of your care needs the most accurate and up-to-date information, including all doctors or healthcare providers you’re seeing, caregivers, and close family or loved ones involved in your care.
Even if it helps you avoid duplicate tests because each doctor has access to the tests other doctors have already performed, it can save you valuable time and money, as well as reduce some of your stress.
If you are a CareSync member, let your Health Assistant know every doctor, clinic, medical lab, etc. that you visit so your care can be coordinated among all your healthcare providers.
Your Health Assistant can help ensure the healthcare professionals you see have the important information they need. They can also supply you with health education information so you can better understand your conditions and medications.
Make the Most of Your Time With Your Doctor
Are you anxious about appointments? Do you stress about not knowing if you’ll get all your questions asked or if you’ll absorb all the information the doctor is giving you? Do you worry about transportation to medical appointments and treatments? Do you feel like you’re not getting enough quality time with your doctor to help alleviate some of your concerns?
When you are dealing with chronic, life-threatening, and/or debilitating illnesses or conditions, even something like juggling a variety of doctors and doctor appointments can be overwhelming. You may find it useful to:
- Find a trusted family member, friend, or other caregiver who can accompany on you visits to the doctor to help ensure you get your questions answered and remember what you’ve been told.
- Take a checklist with you of questions or concerns, and check each one off during your appointment. You might even ask your doctor if it’s okay to record your appointments so you can replay the information later or share it with a family member or caregiver.
- Locate special services in your community for rides to medical appointments and treatment centers.
Remember, if you are a CareSync member, you can contact your Health Assistant for support. Your Health Assistant can schedule doctor appointments, support you in preparing for them using Visit Planner (which can help ensure your questions get answered and the time spent with your doctor is as productive as it can be), and help arrange transportation to them.
Seek Support in Managing Both Your Physical and Mental Health
You may find it hard to do everything you need to do. It’s important to ask for help. Make a list of what you need help with and who might be able to provide it.
Are you struggling emotionally? Do you have someone who will sit with you and listen when you are feeling troubled? Do you have a support system in place for when times get tough? Do you feel you would benefit from sharing your story and time with others who face the same illness or similar symptoms?
Are household chores becoming too much? Do you have friends or family members who can take turns cleaning the house, picking up your medications, taking your car in for services, preparing meals for the week, handling the yard work, etc.?
Do you have the money to hire certain services that would help you avoid pushing yourself too far, reduce your stress, or free up your time for loved ones? Consider options like:
- Using a shopping service to shop for your groceries and deliver them to you
- Hiring a cleaning service to help with the housework
- Keeping your yard mowed by using a landscaping service or paying someone in the neighborhood
- Having meals delivered when you’re too tired to prepare food on your own
Can some needs be met by volunteer groups, special programs, or individuals from your church or community?
For example, perhaps there are individuals who can help you with repairs to your car or home, or provide meals when you are recovering from a procedure. You may be able to get financial support through special services from the government or save money on prescriptions with a discount pharmacy program.
Are you a member of CareSync? CareSync Health Assistants can help you locate sources of support, such as community programs that can assist you with healthcare and social needs, support groups with meetings in your area, pharmacy discount programs that save you money on your medications, programs that provide hot meals or transportation to medical appointments, and more.
Remember, managing your mental health is just as important to your overall health as treating the physical diseases and conditions you face, so don’t be embarrassed to seek help and support when you need it.
Additional Resources That Can Help With Living With Chronic Disease or Conditions
Meals on Wheels - Delivery of hot meals to seniors
Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation - An organization that can help underinsured patients get the treatments they need
Prescription Assistance - A list of resources from the U.S. government
Family Caregiver Alliance - Information about hiring in-home help for a loved one