What’s It Like to Live With a Chronic Illness

People with acute illnesses such as the flu or cough and colds often feel sluggish. They find it hard to function at work or spend time with family. But that's a better feeling compared to people who have to deal with chronic illnesses all their lives. With an acute illness, you know you'll feel better in a couple of days. You know that after taking paracetamol, your fever will go down. Chronic illnesses last for a long time, even years. Some of them will never heal at all.

While there are autoimmune disease treatment facilities that help people who suffer from various illnesses, people with chronic diseases need understanding. More than anything else, they need the support of their loved ones. But for their families and friends, that's easier said than done. It's hard to imagine what's it like to live with chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer's, arthritis, COPD, cancer, diabetes, lupus, HIV, AIDS, and many more.

Aside from disease-specific symptoms, people with chronic illnesses also deal with depression. This is where it gets dark and murky. Depressed people are almost always irrational. Depression is not a state of mind. It's a medical condition that affects the way people live. It's often as debilitating as the disease itself.

Pain and Fatigue

What kind of mood are you in when you're suffering from lower back pain? It's hard for you to move, isn't it? At one point, you may have even called in sick because the pain was unbearable. That's how everyone with chronic illnesses feels. The pain never goes away. Sure, they deal with it through medication, but this is not a healthy way to live. People are not supposed to depend on medicines every single day.

With the pain comes this physical fatigue and mental exhaustion. You're too tired from feeling pain all the time. The pain changes people suffering from chronic illnesses. They may snap at their loved ones. Their moods vary from bad to worst.

Anxiety and Depression

People with chronic diseases are more likely to be depressed. Studies showed that they are 33% more likely to get depressed than normal. The risk of depression for women is at 10% to 25% while it's slightly lower for men at 5% to 12%. But those who suffered depression before the diagnosis of a chronic illness can make the condition worse.

Depression and anxiety limit people's capacity. Their self-worth suffers. Their self-confidence will almost be non-existent. They pull away from social interactions, alienating their families and friends. It is not often you'll see people with chronic illnesses up and about. They suffer from bouts of depression. You can't do anything about it but be there for them.

Sometimes, they can be open to suggestions for therapy. You have to toe this line carefully as depressed people don't see things the same way you do. Listen to their fears. Never alienate them. Don't tell them to "suck it up." More than anyone or anything else, depressed people need understanding.

Financial Problems

Many people who are suffering from chronic illnesses are unable to work. This leads to financial problems. Their medical bills will pile up. They will have to rely on government subsidies and their medical insurances (if they have any). This adds to the stress of having to deal with their illnesses in the first place.

Though you cannot shoulder their medical expenses, you can help in little ways. You can bring them food. You can help them find a home-based job that pays well. You can accompany them to government offices if they have to file for support regarding their predicament.

Coping with a chronic illness is never going to be easy for anyone. It takes an unbelievable faith and strength of character to remain hopeful despite the odds. All you can do is be there as a friend and hopefully, for many of those who are suffering, that's enough.

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