There’s no manual for life with chronic and mental illness which is so strange since we write manuals on how to use a toilet plunger. As I’ve navigated this path, I’ve realized that there are things I wish someone had told me when I first embarked on this journey. It has been a rollercoaster full of emotions, triumphs, setbacks, and discoveries. Today, I’d like to share these insights with you, in the hopes that they might provide some comfort, support, and understanding as you begin your healing journey.

  1. It is very much real
    Your disease may not be visible, and so others may not believe you. That shouldn’t stop you from accepting that it is real. It is not imaginary. It is happening inside of you. Pain is subjective. And regardless of what anyone says, your experience is valid.
  2. It’s okay not to be okay
    There will be days when it feels like your body and mind are conspiring against you, making even the simplest tasks feel insurmountable. It’s okay to have bad days, to feel overwhelmed, and to struggle. It’s ok to want to stay in bed, and not get things done. Give yourself permission to feel and process your emotions, and also rest whenever you need it.
  3. Your worth is not defined by your illness
    It can sometimes make you feel like your value as a person has diminished. You have to remember that your worth is not defined by your productivity or diagnoses or anything else. You are so much more than all of it combined. You are a unique and irreplaceable individual with dreams, passion, talent and potential. Don’t let anything define you. Just be unapologetically yourself.
  4. Self-care is not selfish
    Prioritizing self-care is important, whether or not you are disabled, but especially if you are. You may feel guilty for putting your needs first, I want you to remember that self-care is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Your overall well-being depends on it. Every time I talk about selfcare, people respond with “I don’t have time”, “I have responsibilities”, etc. And I always say the same thing, you have to be healthy to consistently be there for someone else when they need you.
  5. You are not alone
    Isolation is one of the worst things about life with chronic and mental illness. And it could be harmful in ways you don’t even recognize. Well, let me be the first to tell you, that you are not alone. There is a whole community of individuals who understand the unique challenges you face and can offer support, empathy, and understanding. Reach out to online support groups, therapists, and local organizations to connect with others who share your experiences and can help you navigate this journey.
  6. Your journey is unique
    There is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing chronic and mental illness. What works for someone else may not work for you, and that’s okay. Your journey is unique, and it’s essential to be patient with yourself as you explore different treatment options, coping strategies, and support systems. Remember that progress is rarely linear, and setbacks are a natural part of the process.
  7. It’s important to advocate for yourself
    Navigating the healthcare system can be complex and, at times, frustrating. It’s crucial to be your own advocate, to educate yourself about your conditions, and to communicate openly with your healthcare providers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek second opinions, and express your concerns. You deserve the best possible care, and advocating for yourself is a vital step in achieving that. Remember that your doctor works for you.
  8. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small
    It can be quite difficult to recognize your accomplishments. But it’s essential to celebrate your victories, whether it’s making a meal, or completing a task you’ve been putting off, making it through a tough day, or finding a new coping strategy that works for you. Recognizing and celebrating your progress can help boost your self-esteem and motivate you to continue pushing forward.
  9. Hope and resilience are powerful allies
    There will be setbacks, but your strength and determination can help you overcome even the toughest obstacles. Hold on to hope, and trust in your ability to adapt and grow. Remember that you’ve faced challenges before and emerged stronger as a result. (Here’s a secret: We are wired to hope, because hope ensures survival. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to find it if you ever lose it.)
  10. Your story has the power to inspire and help others
    Sharing your experiences with chronic and mental illness can have a profound impact on both yourself and others. By opening up about your struggles and triumphs, you can break the stigma surrounding these conditions and help others feel less alone in their journey. Your story has the power to inspire, educate, and create meaningful connections, so don’t be afraid to share it with the world.

This can be a challenging, frustrating and isolating journey. Remember that you are not alone, and you will find your own path to healing. (See how I reminded you of OnVisibility there? Haven’t listened to the podcast yet? What are you waiting for?)