Chronic Coping

Living with a chronic illness can have any number of emotional effects, especially if you have an illness that medical providers and specialists are not able to explain.

I have heard countless stories over the years of people who have experienced some kind of disregard from what I’ll call the medical establishment. There are individual providers of medical services who treat folks with respect and honesty when they aren’t sure what is happening medically for a patient. And, there are others who disregard a person and offer a referral for psychological services in these situations.

Either way, a referral for therapy can feel like the medical person is saying, “it’s all in your head” or “I don’t believe you” or “I don’t know what else I can do to help you.” In the best case, the patient takes the opportunity to see a therapist in order to cope with the experience of that medical person (or those medical people, for that matter).

In other cases, patients decide that going to see a doctor isn’t worth it. These folks often get physically sicker and some also get depressed.

I am biased, I realize, but I think that therapy can be helpful for folks who have chronic illness. Our minds and bodies are actually connected to each other. Can’t have one without the other, so why not get treatment for all parts of ourselves?

For people with chronic illness, having support can make a big difference. Learning that you have rights as a patient, and knowing that you can decide what feels comfortable to you in a medical visit can be very empowering. For example:

  • You can opt out of being weighed.
  • You can change your mind about getting a pelvic exam, even if that was the reason you made the appointment.
  • If you don’t understand what the medical person is telling you, you can ask questions.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to say so!

Why not have a care team? A therapist can be your cheerleader as you go out and deal with the medical establishment, a place to regroup after a medical appointment, a source of support for regaining the emotional (or physical) energy you need to have another medical test, see another provider, etc.