Where Can I Find Emotional Support?
People who live with a chronic illness don’t have to just manage the illness itself. They also have to manage the wide range of emotions that can come with it.
From the initial grief that comes with your diagnosis, feelings of despair during days when you’re feeling weak and the euphoria that comes when you start to respond to a treatment, living with a chronic illness can feel like a roller coaster emotionally. But while these feelings are completely normal, having such a wide range of emotions (often within a short of window) can feel exhausting.
Luckily, there are outlets where you can get emotional support that will help you feel more balanced. Consider any of the following options:
Support Groups: There are numerous in-person and online support groups made up of people who have the same chronic illness or symptoms as you. These supportive environments give you the chance to speak openly and honestly about the challenges you are facing, as well as hear success stories from people who have shared similar experiences. It may even be helpful to take a friend or family member to one of these meetings so they can learn more about your illness and how to support you.
Volunteering: This is a great way to get out of your own head and focus on helping others, which can also help give purpose and provide a sense of self-worth. Pick an organization that you either feel passionately about or have a personal attachment to. For example, if you have cancer, you might be able to volunteer at the American Cancer Society.
Picking up a hobby: Whether it’s a tennis league or a painting class, simply getting out of the house and learning something new can boost your mood. You’ll also meet other people in your community who share similar interests, which could in turn boost your support network.
Religion: Plenty of people find emotional comfort in learning more about a particular region. Even if you’re not particularly religious, just singing hymns during a service could be helpful in providing positive emotions. Numerous studies have shown that group singing relieves anxiety, lowers stress and elevates endorphins.
Friends and family: Communicate directly and openly with loved ones about your chronic illness and ask for their support. Be clear about how they can help. You may feel like you’re placing a burden on them, but they’ll likely feel honored that you’re turning to them when you need it most.
Seeing a professional: A therapist can serve as a proverbial shoulder to cry on and your sessions with them are designed to be a safe space to share uncomfortable thoughts. A good therapist will be both compassionate and empathetic. They understand that temporary emotional support is sometimes all you need for a particular session. But as you can continue to work with them, they will also help you change your patterns of thinking and improve your mental outlook.