By Tom Robinson
Last year, until it closed down, I was a volunteer for an online support group that was for people with chronic illnesses. I supported them in managing and overcoming the depression that often accompanies serious long-term illnesses. In order to be able to do that better, I asked the people in the group to take a survey. One of the questions I asked in it was what they would do if they weren’t ill and depressed.
Almost everyone who responded said they would do more, and most of the things they said they would do involved other people. Some said they would travel to visit relatives, some said they would go back to work (which for many of them involved helping others), and a high percentage of them said they would socialize more.
Having coached people with chronic illnesses for many years, as well as having a chronic illness myself, I can well understand and relate to their answers. I bet you can too. But in a way, those answers were incomplete. They were incomplete because the question was incomplete. And the question was incomplete because when you’re chronically ill and depressed, it’s important to think about not only what you would like to do if you could, but why you would do it.
Asking yourself that question can help you discover what you want and need most. And surprising as it may seem, when we have a chronic illness — and are depressed because we do, we often don’t know what we want and need most. We get so caught up in how bad we feel, and how awful and unfair we think it is that we have an illness, that we lose touch with all of our wants and needs except our desire to be well again. The good thing is that when we do find out what those wants and needs are, we can then take steps to meet them.
For example, if you realize that the reason you want to socialize more is because doing so will help you feel more connected to others, you can brainstorm and list all the ways you can think of to connect with and feel more connected to others. Or if you realize that you want to work because doing so would help you feel good because you were helping and contributing to others, you can brainstorm and list all the ways you can think of to do that. Then you can look at your lists, decide which ways would be the most feasible and effective, and start doing them.
I invite you to share your thoughts about my suggestions, as well as your experiences, both positive and negative, from trying them out.
Reposted with permission from Living Your Best Life Possible When You Have Chronic Illness.