Suffering and well-being with a chronic condition can coexist.
Well-being is the interaction and balance of many dimensions of health. These include physical, mental, social, spiritual, and financial health. When you are living with a chronic condition or disease, you may suffer in each of these dimensions. But it also within your abilities to build the skills of well-being too.
With a chronic condition or disability, physical health may have been affected first. Maybe you experienced pain, weakness, or fatigue. But the symptoms didn’t go away with time. And you may have started to feel anxiety, depression, anger, or frustration. Each affected your mental health. Social circles may have become smaller. And some relationships may have ended (social health). You may have questioned the purpose of your suffering. Or the meaning of your new normal and routine (spiritual health). Financial health may feel stressed with less time at work or extra costs. The balance of wellness quickly became off kilter and your quality of life suffered.
So, how can you live as well as possible in these circumstances? By acknowledging the potential for suffering and well-being with a chronic condition.
It is human nature to want to relieve pain or suffering. So, with a health crisis, we often turn to science and traditional medicine first to relieve physical suffering. Examples like working with doctors. Taking medications. Undergoing surgery. Participating in therapy. But what happens when science and traditional medicine cannot relieve all the physical suffering? Or, how do you relieve suffering in other dimensions of health, like your social or spiritual health?
And how do you build the skills to live as well as possible when you are managing a chronic condition, day after day?
I recently read a story that gave me clarity on how suffering and well-being with chronic illness go hand in hand. In the book Beautiful Hope, Talia Westerby tells her story of recovery from obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. After a mental breakdown, she found herself in an unexpected health crisis. Her journey to recovery started with trying to relieve the physical and mental suffering. For Talia, she found traditional medicine and care were essential to surviving the first part of her health crisis. They were also pivotal in beginning her journey to recovery. She went to therapy and worked with doctors. She also used medications to improve her mental health.
But Talia also knew that she needed more than science to make her recovery last. She knew she also needed to build the skills that would help her sustain her recovery – the skills of well-being. Medication and therapy alone would not be enough to support her recovery in the long-term.
For Talia, her well-being came from fostering her spiritual and social health. She pursued a deeper relationship with God. She sought his presence and seeked his help during her most difficult moments. Then, she found a community of friends that accepted and supported her, flaws and all.
In her words, “I find hope in good doctors who work hard to relieve the suffering of their patients, who spend countless hours serving a seemingly endless stream of suffering.” But she goes on to say that it is her faith and community that also gives her hope for a happy and fulfilling future.
For Talia, addressing her physical health was important. Traditional science and medicine played pivotal roles. But so too was addressing other areas of wellness in her life like her social and spiritual health. And without developing and nurturing relationships and her spiritual life, her recovery would be incomplete.
Your story will be different. Your health crisis will have different details. Therefore, your journey of recovery will look different from Talia’s or someone else’s. But, your journey may need both the relieving of suffering and the building of well-being in all dimensions of health to be complete too.
So, take a few minutes and ask yourself the following questions about your recovery journey:
- Are you suffering in the nonphysical dimensions of health – mental, social, or spiritual health?
- If yes, how can you relieve your suffering in those areas?
- Then, how can you begin to build the skills of well-being to manage your health problem long-term? Do you need to foster positive relationships? Build a support system? Find peace with your new normal or meaning in your suffering?
There is no one answer to any of these questions. Your answers are specific to you. Your circumstances, values, and priorities will determine which steps are right for you.
The work can be difficult at times as all journeys will have their peaks and valleys. But there is a path out there for you to live as well as possible with this condition.
If you need help figuring out your path to living with a disability, wellness coaching can help.
Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness. Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice. The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you. There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.