Moving from Survive to Thrive:
Mental Well-Being in the Context of Chronic Illness
Summary of a talk by Anna Goren, MC (Master of Counselling), CCC (Certified Canadian Counsellor), RCC (Registered Clinical Counsellor) given to the BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society at Summerhill PARC, September 24, 2015.
The notion of ‘surviving or thriving’ in relation to the chronic illness, where there are good days and bad days, perhaps requires a shift in thinking. While we all have the potential to thrive despite ill health, sometimes simply surviving the day equals success! Can we accept that thriving might occur in only certain areas of our lives and only at certain times?
Learning to live with chronic illness takes time and enormous energy, and inevitably means confronting feelings of loss, which in our society– focused so resolutely on happiness, success, beauty, and achievement–is most challenging.
We are brought up to show a ‘happy face’ and are not encouraged to explore our negative feelings, so that, even though being chronically ill is something to feel negatively about, it is extremely difficult to express it. We tend to justify our silence, but silence itself can increase our suffering. Although we see a balance of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in nature, we try desperately to avoid the darker side of life, but if we continually hold in our negative feelings, sometimes they can overwhelm us.
Part of living with chronic illness means having to adjust and readjust to change–sometimes one day will hold many such changes–causing a roller-coaster effect to both the body and the emotions, While we have to tolerate the physical changes, we can most definitely address and shift the emotional ones, like depression or anxiety.
Key points to remember:
- All our feelings are valid, can be acknowledged, and can be understood by others.
- We all need help from the beginning to the end of our lives, and we should be gentle with ourselves.
- We are all loveable and deserve to be supported and cared for, and in order for this to happen, we must reach out.
- We all experience both intense emotional joy and pain in our lives, for this is part of what it is to be human.
- It is a myth to think that we are ever truly independent. We all need and support each other all our lives and are all a good mix of weak, strong, dependent, and independent.