A chronic illness is just that. Chronic. When a person is first diagnosed it can be difficult to grasp the concept of “life-long,” even when they have been essentially living with something already. For so many a diagnosis of something is followed by treatment, but with a chronic illness, it’s treatment and management.
The prevailing model of care for a chronic illness is the patient’s own self-management. It can be daunting but empowering to take control of one’s health. The mental benefits are as important as the physical ones, but the same holds true if there is a lapse. Consistency is the goal in management, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it seems downright impossible. Human beings are not perfect and maintaining a 100% consistent success rate is very unlikely. There are going to be moments where management slips whether due to error, circumstance or plain old burnout. It is easy to get down on ourselves when we fall short of consistency, but it’s important to remember that no one is perfect and that even fully healthy people do not always bat a thousand on their own health practices.
This is where the network of support comes in. Successful management usually involves others, whether it be a medical team, personal friends and family support, or a peer group setting. Having others around you can help share the load or give helpful reminders so that you do remain more consistent in your management. But even then mistakes happen, and things can sometimes fall through the cracks. Getting discouraged is natural when you haven’t followed through on management consistently, even if you have been diagnosed for years. Sometimes getting back on track is difficult because of shame. “I’ve already messed up, it’s too embarrassing to start over.” This is where peer support is particularly helpful. Being around people with similar struggles can make you feel less alone in general, and having honest discussions with long-time sufferers who still sometimes make mistakes can be a relief. It is always encouraging to know that a bit of inconsistency doesn’t mean you should give up altogether.
As important as it is to be consistent in management, it’s equally important to be kind to yourself. A chronic illness is a journey, but with companions, the road can be a lot smoother.