The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

ARTICLE: 8 Choices You Must Make to Live Successfully with Chronic Illness

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8 Choices You Must Make to Live Successfully with Chronic Illness

We may not have a choice about the chronic illness we live with, but we do have a choice about how we live with it. Little choices can make a large impact on our life!

We all seek validation for our chronic illness, but our attitude about how we live with it, even when we don’t find that validation from others, is vital in how we succeed. It’s all about choice. The doctor may tell you what your body is doing or how it may react in the future, but you still have choice to make that will impact everything else about your life.

[1] Recognize that the illness is chronic
You will swim through the phases of grief for the rest of your life, because with a chronic condition comes new limitations as the illness progresses. Don’t be too hard on yourself; reach out to others, build up friendships with those that understand, pursue new hobbies that get your mind off of the illness, take a second look at your faith and how this effects it.

[2] Be a good advocate for your health
You know your body better than anyone else and the likelihood is that you will get tons of well-meaning advice from both friends and strangers. Be discerning in what you choose to follow and what you choose to let go. Kindly thank those that offer their advice, but don’t make any promises or feel obligated to try anything they offer.

[3] Do research on new medications and alternative treatments
Be wise in how much money you invest in alternative treatments; don’t continue to dump money into alternative treatments when the practitioners continue to offer promises and testimonials. Recognize that alternative supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may not be as effective as they claim or even safe.

[4] Choose your doctors carefully
Ask for referrals. Find a doctor who your personality clicks with. Don’t be demanding or act like you know more than s/he does, even if you occasionally do. Build a team of doctors that is willing to work with you to give you the best quality of life.

[5] Refuse to give into bitterness
When you’re seeking validation for your illness, especilly when it’s invisible, it’s easy to get caught up in the blues of "but they don’t understand!" and "they are so lucky and they don’t even appreciate their health!" Defy the tendency to feel sorry for yourself and instead choose joy.

[6] Step outside yourself
Even if you aren’t happy about the diagnosis, in time you will witness others going down this same path and you may have a desire to reach out. Follow that passion! Reaching out to another person who is dealing with similar circumstances can be healing for both of you and will give your illness purpose, even on the days with great physical pain.

[7] Get a grip on guilt
It’s natural, especially if you have a family, to feel intense feelings of guilt that you are bringing everyone down with you. Recognize that this illness is not a judgment or punishment. it simply is. You may not be able to choose to live without it but you can choose how to live with it. Your kids and spouse are watching to see how you will handle this. Make them proud.

[8] Allow yourself to be vulnerable
On the flip side, you don’t have to be a steel magnolia and always keep a stiff upper lip. Find a friend, a mentor, a buddy – – someone who you can let down your frustrations, struggles, hopes and fears with. You’ll find that illness may leave you with fewer friends than before but the quality of relationships may be much more precious.

We’re all sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Chronic illness is an unfortunate part of life we’ve been dealt, and how we choose to live with it is up to us. Allow yourself to have a "pity hour" now and then, but don’t fall into the trap of having "pitty years." You may not be able to control your illness, but you can control your attitude. And a good attitude will make your illness much easier to cope with.


Having troubles with pat answers? Find out how to really change in Lisa’s new book, "Why Can’t I Make People Understand? Discovering the Validation Those with Chronic Illness Seek and Why" at . Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries, serving the chronically ill, and editor of HopeKeepers Magazine. . She is the author of various books and church resources that serve the chronically ill community, and founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.

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