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Adult Chronic Illness

Is Chronic Illness Taking Over Your Life?

Are you or is someone you love struggling to cope with overwhelming emotions related to chronic illness? Do friends, colleagues or even health professionals regularly tell you that you don’t look unwell? It may be that you feel the need to constantly talk about or explain your symptoms to assure friends and relatives that you’re not making them up. Or, do you worry that others see only your illness, instead of the person you really are? It may be that you feel left behind or excluded by friends and family members who all seem to have fun and fulfilling lives. Are you reluctant to express your frustration for fear of upsetting loved ones? Or, perhaps you are unsure how to help your struggling friend or family member. You might feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells to avoid triggering his or her anger and/or sadness. If you are the one suffering, do you feel unsure how to communicate your needs to others? You may fear that you will seem “needy” if you ask for additional support or accommodations. And, you may worry that high stress levels are negatively impacting your health and relationships. Do you want to gain control and return to enjoying life, instead of being controlled by pain and illness?

Managing chronic health conditions can be an incredibly lonely and painful experience. Perhaps you feel angry and wonder what you did to deserve this suffering. It may feel like everyone around you is having fun and progressing through life, while you silently suffer and are left behind. It may be that your physician has started you on a new medication, which makes it difficult to concentrate at work or when socializing. You may believe that isolating yourself from friends and family is easier than exposing yourself to even more hurt and/or rejection. Or, it may be that you have a life-threatening or terminal illness and have difficulty living in the present moment. You may feel unable to cope with stress and/or experience insomnia, panic attacks or persistent worry. Maybe you feel like you’re being discriminated against at work due to your illness. It may be that you are continually passed over for a promotion and are unsure what action to take. Do you feel overwhelmed, depressed and/or anxious when contemplating living with a chronic or debilitating health condition for the rest of your life?

Many Individuals, Couples And Families Are Affected By Chronic Illness

Battling a chronic illness presents many challenges that differ from acute illnesses, such as flu or strep. With an acute illness, symptoms may be unpleasant, but we generally know that we’ll feel better within a few days or weeks. However, for people suffering with chronic illness, there is no end in sight. Many chronic illnesses never go away, some will progress further, and others are terminal. Chronic illness often disrupts lives in a multitude of ways, impacting not just the body, but also the mind and spirit. And, while stress and worry do not cause chronic illness, ongoing, untreated stress often manifests as physical symptoms and exacerbates the experience of chronic illness.

Some of the most distressing chronic illnesses are those in which physical symptoms are invisible to the naked eye, such as chronic fatigue and pain. Having an invisible illness can often lead to feelings of frustration, despair and/or loneliness. Loved ones and even some medical and health professionals may inadvertently cause hurt and upset through complimenting patients’ appearance or undermining their symptoms. Many people with chronic illness feel like nobody understands what they’re going through. Often, sufferers feel uncomfortable asking for help or accommodations for fear of being a burden. Feeling isolated, they often miss out on work, school, weddings or other major life events, as well as everyday social activities.

Nearly everybody encounters chronic pain, illness or a life-threatening condition at some point in their lives, either directly or through a loved one. And, it’s very common for those with a chronic illness to develop anxiety, depression and/or other emotional health conditions. Research indicates that between 40-65 percent of adults with multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or cancer experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. And, living with a chronic illness can also affect interpersonal and family dynamics, which can cause conflict, loneliness and/or frustration. The good news is that there is help and hope. A chronic illness therapist can help you cope with and overcome lifestyle and family challenges, manage symptoms, relieve stress and provide an empathetic outlet for frustration and worry.

Chronic Illness Counseling Can Provide You With Support, Skills And A New Path Forward

Chronic illness is as unique as the individual and family it impacts. And, having a serious chronic illness is not only an enormous physical challenge, but also an emotional and mental one, too. Whether you are struggling with cancer, an autoimmune disorder or still in search of a diagnosis, I will honor your experience and voice and create a therapy plan that best meets your needs. Together, we will find creative solutions that are tailor-made to your and your family’s unique situation.

In the comfortable, safe space of chronic illness therapy sessions, I will help you identify your strengths and improve your coping resources so you can better manage your illness. I can provide you with techniques that can help to reframe your perception of chronic illness, such as  breathing techniques, guided imagery, mindfulness techniques and muscle relaxation. You can learn how to manage stress and anxiety, which can help reduce and relieve symptoms. I provide a safe, trusting, warm and empathetic space where you can openly explore your frustrations and desires without fear of judgment. And, using cognitive behavioral techniques and problem-solving strategies, you can learn to manage your medical appointments and cope with even the most challenging days.

When suffering with a chronic illness, it’s important to become your own best advocate and learn to navigate the healthcare system. Often, chronic illness requires lifestyle changes, such as eating or exercising per a doctor’s recommendations. I can help support your healthy choices, while at the same time understanding how difficult it can be to foster meaningful change. With your permission, I can also work with your medical team to get everyone on the same page with developing and implementing healthy, consistent coping and pain management strategies. I can also help you reestablish relationships or form new ones, communicate more effectively, increase self-esteem and overcome fears.

I use a solution-focused, integrative and collaborative approach to best help you and your family cope with chronic illness. I am trained in clinical hypnosis and biofeedback techniques, which I incorporate when appropriate. Since 2001, I have been working with chronic illness patients in multiple settings including private practices, hospitals and cancer clinics. My mission is to help enable you to get what you want in life, achieving your goals and dreams, in spite of illness.

Having a chronic illness can be very challenging. However, with the right support and help, it is possible to have a better life. Together, we will collaborate on a plan to help you not only cope with and manage your symptoms, but to experience joy, happiness and peace in the midst of your illness. Through feeling empowered and hopeful, you can begin to take control of your illness, overcome challenges and roadblocks and live a healthier, happy life.

Some of the chronic illnesses I work with include:

Diabetes

Autoimmune illnesses

Multiple Sclerosis

Heart Disease

Metabolic Syndrome

Digestive issues

Hypertension

Cancer

Mental health issues related to physical conditions

You still may have questions and concerns about chronic illness counseling…

I have a physical condition. How can therapy help?

Chronic health conditions are emotional as well as physical. Stress, anxiety and/or depression can all contribute to and amplify symptoms. Treating stress and processing difficult emotions through counseling can have a positive impact on symptoms, reducing chronic pain, lowering blood pressure and relieving headaches. Also, chronic illness can create feelings of loneliness and many people find it helpful to speak with an experienced therapist who understands what they’re going through. It may be that you need help advocating for your needs, setting boundaries, treating stress, anxiety or depression, or simply expressing your frustration and/or worries.

I already have so many doctor’s appointments and commitments. How can I fit therapy into my schedule?

Chronic illness therapy sessions are designed to help you reduce stress, anxiety and/or depression, which can help you better manage appointments and a busy schedule. In sessions, I will listen to your experience of chronic illness without judgment, diagnosis or making you feel rushed. I can help you better navigate the healthcare system and implement strategies to get the most out of your doctor’s appointments, which can reduce stress and help you feel empowered to better manage your symptoms.

Can therapy help my family/friends understand my illness?

Bringing friends or family members into therapy sessions can very often help them better understand your illness and how they can help.   By including family members in session you can feel less alone.  Both you and your family members can learn helpful ways to cope with having a chronic illness in the family.  Having family members in session can help you feel less lonely.  This can be especially useful, when you feel like your family does not understand you experience of chronic illness.   Together, we can implement a family therapy plan to ensure that the entire family is working together to help manage your illness and as you gain control of your life.

Learn To Manage Chronic Illness

If you’re ready to begin managing chronic illness, I can help. Call 972-489-2658 today for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I can answer any questions you may have about working with a chronic illness therapist and my practice.