Are you having a difficult time adjusting to your chronic illness? Are you unsure on how to go about it coping with your chronic illness? If so you’re not alone. Many people who have a chronic illness have a difficult time adjusting and move into a place of depression. To help understand the typical impact that a chronic illness has on someone’s overall life and what you can do to adjust if you have a chronic illness, I have interviewed therapist Salley Sutmiller, M.S., M. Ed.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working in private practice at Christian Family Institute in Tulsa, OK. I have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Oklahoma Baptist University. My degree was focused on systems therapy, which means that I am always cognizant of the bigger picture. Even when I treat an individual, I realize that this person is part of a system and others are and will be affected.”
“I treat individuals, couples, and families working through a variety of issues including chronic illness and its effects. I believe that God has granted me a great privilege in allowing me to walk with others through their journey to health and wholeness.
Please see my website for more information about me.”
What type of impact can a chronic illness have on someone’s overall life?
“The impact of chronic illness, without getting into specifics, can range from minimal (particularly when in remission) to devastating and totally disruptive. Significant variables include, but are not limited to, the type of illness, the progression of the illness, and the course of and response to treatment. There can be physical complications, such as mobility issues, fatigue, problems with sleep, sexual difficulties, and others more specific to the particular illness. As one would expect, there are also a variety of emotional complications. More commonly those can include depression, anxiety, irritability, frustration, anger, guilt, and shame. The type and degree of impact is also affected by the age and stage of life the person is in.”
How can they adjust to chronic illness?
“Remember that adjustment is a process, not an event. Educate yourself about the illness. Don’t just depend on what the doctor tells you. Ask questions–get online–read! Adequate self-care is crucial. Simple things like improving eating habits, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining an exercise regimen (at whatever level is medically appropriate) can improve both physical and emotional well-being. There is probably nothing more important in making the adjustments required by chronic illness than the patient’s attitude. A good attitude can sometimes minimize the impact of the illness, as well. This is an area where good spiritual support is extremely beneficial. Many sufferers find their strength and attitude through reliance on God, prayer, and meditation on scriptures. Having a support group is also important. Look for a community group of others experiencing the same illness. Maintain a social life, as possible. Be open to asking for and receiving help from family and friends. Everyone needs help at some point in time.”
What type of professional help is available for someone who has a chronic illness?
“Finding a physician and medical team is obviously an important part of the equation. Find someone you can get comfortable with and be able to ask questions–someone who listens to you. In addition, visiting with a mental health professional, can be immensely helpful in dealing with the emotional complications and helping to make the adjustments necessary to accommodate chronic illness. The therapist you choose does not necessarily have to specialize in chronic illness–most are adequately trained to help with many of the emotional complications of illness. As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous community support groups in larger cities. The internet and the phone book can be valuable resources for locating the illness specific group needed. There are frequently online chat groups available, as well.”
What last advice would you like to give to someone who wants to adjust to his or her chronic illness?
“Always remind yourself that you are not the illness, you have the illness. Don’t let it define you. Each person has to find his or her own path through the illness. Be open to getting the help you need. Be flexible and gentle with yourself.”
Thank you Salley for doing the interview on how someone can adjust to his or her chronic illness. For more information on Salley Sutmiller or her work you can check out her website on http://salleysutmiller.com or http://cfitulsa.com.
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