The first piece of advice you can from people when you are newly diagnosed is to not let the disease define you. While there is good intention behind that, chronic illness is going to define because it changes you and your very way of living. You have to find ways to live with chronic illness successfully and most changes in your life are due to chronic illness being a part of it.
Living with a disease like chronic illness throws you into a whole new world and you start to question who you are and who you are becoming. You can no longer define yourself on the things you accomplished or had plans to accomplish. A part of us knows that the people who love us always will but the other part wants so desperately to connect to those people as we were before chronic illness came into our lives. Many of us have had to quit jobs, change jobs or cut our hours. We have also had to limit our involvement with friends and activities we once enjoyed.
Depression is also factor because getting depressed is a response to all the affects that the disease has our lives and our bodies. When you are depressed, you feel unworthy and it is hard to see through that logic. It is no wonder so many of us feel defined by our diseases.
Living with both fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, I know that my health defines my day to day. It defines whether I can spend time with family and friends or whether my laundry and housekeeping will get done. It also defines my work day and whether I will make into work. We are always working so hard not to let our diseases define us but we don’t stop to wonder why they do. The only way to NOT let disease define you is work toward disease management but as hard as you try, your disease will always define you in some way or the other. How can living with chronic illness NOT define you?
I have learned that HOW chronic illness actually defines me is more important than the actual idea of NOT letting it defining me. Does it define me with anger, self-pity, sadness or resentment or does it define me with patience, empathy, endurance, and determination? I pick the latter every time. Does chronic illness push me further way from loved ones and God or does it bring me closer? Again, I pick the latter option.
Instead of spending so much time not allowing chronic illness to define us, we should allow it to re-define us in positive ways. HOW does chronic illness define you? Does it define you with anger, self-pity, sadness or resentment or rather does it define you with empathy, patience, endurance and determination? Does it push you further away from loved ones and God or does it bring you closer to these things? What things do you do so that chronic illness defines you in a positive light?