Have you recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness? Whether it is diabetes, cancer, arthritis or another chronic disease, the diagnosis likely set off a whole range of unexpected emotions. Don’t worry – it’s completely normal to feel as you do.
You’re not alone
When you first receive a diagnosis, it can feel like there is no one who can really understand how you feel, but you truly are not in it alone – more than half of all adults in the U.S. are living with a chronic condition. By 2020, about 157 million Americans will have a chronic condition, and half will be diagnosed with more than one!1
It’s not easy, and the rollercoaster of emotions your diagnosis has triggered is completely normal, but one thing is for certain, there are more people who can relate than you realize.
Learning to cope
A chronic condition can really take a toll on your emotional health as well as your physical wellbeing, even causing you to change how you see yourself.2 Your first reaction may, in fact, be to deny the diagnosis. But you can’t lie in bed with the covers over your head and just pretend it hasn’t happened.
A study of women diagnosed with breast cancer showed that women who confronted their diagnosis were more psychologically well-adjusted three years later. A second study showed that those who sought support and developed an action plan reported more peace and satisfaction with life two years later when compared to women who avoided their diagnosis.3 Know that it will take time to adjust to your new diagnosis and the lifestyle changes that come with it, but you can live life to the fullest even after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
It feels like your life is out of your control, right? Managing the parts of your life that are in your control can help you take control of your illness. How? You can choose to eat healthfully, work to control your stress and find the support – medical and emotional – that you need.
Ask questions and educate yourself about your disease and treatment – it is your health and diagnosis, and knowledge is power. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about recommended steps you can take to manage your disease or your pharmacist about the medications you have been prescribed or alternatives that might be available.
Are you feeling sad? Angry? Fearful? These feelings are normal when you are first diagnosed with a chronic illness. Feeling concerned about your health, lifestyle changes you need to make, your future or that of your family is to be expected.
Build a strong support network that you can rely on and ask for help when you need it. Temporary sadness is normal, but if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks or become overwhelming, please seek professional help.
Signs of depression include:
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, or empty
- Not enjoying activities you did in the past
- Having trouble focusing, remembering details, or making decisions
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Thoughts of death or suicide4
You are not in this alone, and there are resources that can help:
- Find health care providers who are knowledgeable about your condition and empathetic
- See a therapist, especially if you may be depressed. Research suggests that depression combined with a chronic illness can magnify the symptoms of both illnesses making treatment even more important.4
- Find support online or in your community. Check with your local library, social networks, national organizations, and local hospitals – you may be able to connect with others online who have the same condition. This may be especially helpful when you feel too ill to go out.2
We are here for you
Following your diagnosis, your physician likely prescribed prescriptions that are new to you. Your Health Mart pharmacist is always available to talk about the medications you are taking and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have your medications. You are not in this alone.