A long-term physical health condition – a chronic illness, or a disability – can take over your life. Fighting against the effects of a condition can take up so much energy and effort that it can often feel like your life is stuck.
The physical symptoms of different conditions and the way its managed differ however, the psychological distress that illness, pain and long-term conditions bring are common to lots of health problems.
Many clients report that living with chronic pain and a long-term condition, effects all life domains, including mental health, physical well-being, family, relationships, work and education, friends and social life.
Annabel’s Story: Annabel, aged 32, lives with her partner, no children, recently gave up a job she loved as a carer due to a diagnosed of Fibromyalgia. This is her story in brief:
• Due to fatigue, physical limitations, widespread pain, feeling low and anxious. Annabel experienced daily frustration and friction with family and friends, resulting in her feeling angry and withdrawn. When alone, Annabel would ruminate over past negative upsetting life events.
• Annabel felt sadness and extreme loss for all the things she could no longer do, especially work and socialising with friends. Annabel constantly worried about her future “There’s no cure, what if things get worse”, “I will never have children”. Annabel felt guilty about being a burden to her partner, family and friends.
• Annabel often referred to feeling trapped and battling everyday with her illness. The harder she tried to ignore or change upsetting thoughts and feelings, the more intense the thoughts and feelings became. Annabel tried many ways to get rid of her emotional and physical pain, most of which made her feel worse in the long run. Annabel often used alcohol to help her relax and switch off from upsetting thoughts. She rarely experienced fun and fulfilment in life, “I have no purpose, what’s the point?”
• Rather than existing and fighting a losing battle every day. Annabel and I worked together, to teach her to live well with Fibromyalgia and stressful life challenges.
To assist Annabel to make changes and live better, she obtained acceptance, awareness, self-compassion skills and assertiveness skills. With practice, these skills allowed her to be kind to herself and commit to work towards a future that includes more of the things that matter.