Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The diagnosis of a chronic illness can be shell-shocking to say the least.  You may leave your physician’s office feeling numb, thinking “why me?” or “what did I do wrong?”.  It can be difficult to figure out how you are going to transition into your “new normal”. With time and perseverance, you will figure out how to modify your lifestyle and accommodate your new illness, and here are some suggestions.

            One of the areas that you may notice a significant impact on is your social life.  Chronic illnesses are life altering (life-altering), and unfortunately, in today’s society everything seems to revolve around food. This can be incredibly frustrating because Gastroparesis sufferers often have dietary limitations. Many times it’s not an easy feat to arrange a get-together with friends or go out to the company Christmas party and guarantee that there’s something on the menu to eat.  Many times, a Gastroparesis sufferer may make plans with friends and arrange to go to a movie, dinner/lunch, or other outside activity, but have to cancel because they aren’t feeling well.  It is important to be upfront and honest about any limitations you may have and how the illness may affect those plans. For instance, you may want to consider telling your friend, “ I’m looking forward to seeing you on Friday night but I want to warn you ahead of time I haven’t been feeling well, can we keep in touch and adjust our plans if I need to?”.   

            Another very important aspect is having a support system in place. What this means is to have a few friends, family members, or neighbors who you trust and are willing to help you out based on your needs.  For instance, maybe you are just low on energy and haven’t made it to the grocery store.  Perhaps you could write a list and give it to your significant other and have him or her pick up your items on their way home from work.    Or maybe you can ask your neighbor who has kids around the same age as your children if they can arrange a play date for a few hours at their house while you take a nap or get a few things done (i.e., doctor appointments, running errands, etc.).  It’s okay to ask for help…. no one is meant to be Superwoman/Superman.     

            Having a chronic illness is all about accepting change, which can be very hard to deal with.   One of these changes includes your relationships. Oftentimes people move on and life continues to pass you by.  You may often feel like you are being left in the dust as friends begin to start families, change careers, or get married. This can be difficult on so many levels, but change doesn’t have to be a bad thing!   If you implement changes and they don’t work for you, most times you can pick up the pieces again---- of course that may or may not come with a cost. 

            Most importantly, remember that each person has some control over their life despite their illness. Your attitude is a huge part of how you deal with different situations.  One thing to remember is that it is not your fault that chronic illness entered your life. There was nothing that you did or did not do. Life is like a bad Poker hand.  It doesn’t do any good to play the blame, shame, or guilt game.   Yes the question of “why me?” will probably cross your mind from time to time but remembering that there are choices that allow you to have some control is important.

            In conclusion, illness can definitely change your life and affect various aspects of your life in different ways, but by learning to cope effectively, remembering how important it is to maintain a positive attitude, and being aware of the changes it may bring to you and those around you is crucial to successfully managing a chronic disease. It’s definitely not the card you asked for, but now you are in the driver’s seat and are in charge of your journey.  Your attitude is key to starting that journey… go make the best one you can with what you’ve got.  Every day may not be filled with sunshine but live your life to the fullest despite what life has handed you.

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