How Illness Can Change You and What to Do About It

By Maureen DeGarmo and Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

Pain can change a person, as can other chronic conditions such as overwhelming fatigue, neurological disease, digestive diseases or other disorders.

If you have a chronic condition, then most likely you know what that means. Think back to before your health began to change. Were you more lighthearted? More patient and understanding with your loved ones? Perhaps you valued spontaneity and adventure in your life, which is now a distant memory.

If you are the care-giver for a loved one with a Traumatic Illness, then you may be on the receiving end of both alterations to your daily life as well as personality changes. You might be required to do more meal prep, more driving or more household management. Your loved one might have a shorter temper. She might yell more than she used to, have lost the ability to express herself or lost her sense of humor.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, here are a few things that can help:

  1. Reach out. Find a support group that focuses on your condition. It helps to interact with others who understand exactly what you’re going through.
  1. Get help. Start by identifying your biggest difficulty, such as medication management, scheduling, child care, housework, etc., and delegate some of those responsibilities. This may mean hiring someone, or it may mean saying “yes” to some more of your friends who offer to help.
  1. Keep a journal. If you enjoy writing, try keeping a journal to record all of your frustrations. A journal is the perfect listener, and will never judge you.
  1. Take a class. Learning inter-personal skills such as anger management can help diffuse some of the effects of your illness.
  1. Exercise. Easy to say, of course. But, even a short walk can help clear your head and change your perspective.
  1. Count to Ten. Before you react, count to ten. This helps you decide what is really bothering you, and to choose your words more carefully.
  1. Practice Empathy. Whether you are a care-giver or a care-receiver, try to imagine yourself in the other person’s place.

Traumatic Illness affects many parts of our lives, and the lives of those around us. It is difficult, frustrating, exhausting and endless. Whether you are a care-giver or care-receiver, perhaps some of these ideas will help soften those effects.

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