How To Combat The "Why Me's"

If you have a chronic illness or suffer from chronic pain, you have no doubt asked yourself “why me?” at least once…or more likely, a hundred times. I know I have. This question usually comes when you are not feeling well, when things aren’t going as you planned, or when you are in pain. It is something that is hard to move past. It can be frustrating and all-consuming at times. It can be depressing and can provoke anxiety. Here are a few tips that I hope will help.

1. Learn to accept that you may never get an answer. For the majority of us, there is no answer to “why me?”. Unfortunately sometimes things just happen. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean “it’s okay”. I’m not asking you to say that it is okay that you have an illness or pain. When I talk about acceptance, I mean being able to make necessary adjustments in your life, learning your new normal, and learning that despite your chronic illness or pain you can still be happy. Learning to accept that you may never get an answer to why this happened to you will be a process. It is not something that will happen overnight. You may want to resist it and that’s alright. It is not fair that this happened to you but with some hard work, dedication and a little reorganization of priorities, it is possible to be happy and to accept not having an answer to “why me?”

2. Find meaning. Ask yourself what good could come out of your situation. I guarantee that if you are open to that question, if you take the time to think about it, and if you are honest with yourself, you will likely come up with at least one positive thing that has come out of all the bad. For me, the meaning in my situation is that I am able to counsel others with chronic illness and chronic pain. It is what I love to do and I have been able to take my own experiences and knowledge and help others. For you it doesn’t have to be something as big as a career decision. It may be something as simple as the fact that you now have more compassion for others, you don’t judge people as quickly as you used to, or that your illness or pain has taught you to appreciate the small things in life.

3. Find a passion for something. Try to focus your attention on something other than “why me?”. Find a hobby or a passion that will make you happy and take your mind off of “why me?”. It is okay if the question comes into your mind once in a while. When it is constant or interrupts your quality of life, your focus, or your happiness, that is a problem. Finding something that brings you joy will help you to cope.

4. Find support. You are not alone. As I stated above, the majority of us with a chronic illness or chronic pain have asked ourselves “why me?”. If you find that you are having difficulty with this question, find support, either with friends, family, a support group, or a therapist. Talking about what you are thinking and feeling can help greatly.

10 Ways to Manage Stress with a Chronic Illness

1. Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques are very helpful for relaxing your mind and body. The simplest relaxation technique is deep breathing. To do this, sit in a chair or on a couch with your feet planted on the floor. Close your eyes if you would like. Begin by taking a deep breath to the count of 3 or 4, inhaling through your nose. Pause for a second and then exhale through your mouth to the count of four. While you are breathing in and out, focus on your breath and on counting. Repeat this until you feel relaxed.

2. Evaluate your priorities – We tend to have a lot going on in our lives with work, school, relationships, kids, etc. A lot of the time, our health tends to take a backseat to these other priorities. When you have a chronic illness, it is really important to make your health a top priority. Sometimes it takes evaluating the priorities in your life and figuring out how you can rearrange things, where you can ask for help, and what you can hold off on in order to make sure you are taking care of your health.

3. Participate in at least two enjoyable activities per week – It’s really easy to start feeling depressed and anxious when you have a chronic illness. To help avoid this it is important to do things you enjoy. Make it a goal to do two things you enjoy per week. That can be anything, ranging from reading a good book to taking a walk on the beach.

4. Make lists – Make a list of the things you absolutely have to do on a certain day and a list of the things you would like to do but don’t necessarily have to do. Focus on doing the things you have to do. If there is time and you have the energy, then you can start on the list of things you would like to do.

5. Enjoy the days when you feel good – Whether there are many of these days or they are far and few between, enjoy the days when you feel good and be grateful for them. It’s really easy to focus on the negative things about having a chronic illness. Instead of doing that, focus on what you can do when you feel good.

6. Be proactive with your medical treatment – Make sure you stay on top of doctor appointments and medications. That way you won’t fall behind, which will only make you more stressed out. Plan appointments far ahead of time so that you make sure to get a day and time that is convenient for you. Order prescriptions early so you aren’t rushing to the pharmacy the day you run out of medication. Make sure to report new symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible so that something can be done about it. You see where I am going with this…

7. Find social support – Whether it be with family or friends, or a support group for people with chronic illness, having support is extremely important for managing stress.

8. Exercise – Do what you can when it comes to exercise. Swimming, yoga, or even taking a short walk can do a lot for stress management. If you are having a difficult time thinking of exercises you can do, talk to your doctor and brainstorm together.

9. Make time for yourself – With everything going on in our daily lives, it is important to schedule in some “me” time. Even if it’s only a short amount of time per day.

10. Try not to put so much focus on the things that are out of your control – We only have control over so much. We do not have control over the fact that we have a chronic illness. But we do have control over what we are going to do about it. We can choose to let it affect us negatively every day, or we can choose to learn to make alterations and accept it. We can choose whether or not we are going to be on top of our medical treatment so we can get our illness under control as much as possible. We can choose to focus on the negative things about our illness, or we can choose to try and find a positive. We can let our illness become who we are or we can choose to let it be something we have.

The Psychological Epidemic in Patients with Gastrointestinal Diseases: Help is Needed for Patients Suffering from Suicidal Thoughts, Depression, Stress and Anxiety

I don't know how many of you have read about the suicide of Aaron Swartz. While their may have been many factors that lead to his decision to take his life, many of the articles written about him mentioned the fact that he had ulcerative colitis and that this may have contributed to his depression. After I read some of these articles I couldn't stop thinking about it. I decided to put my thoughts into words. Below is the link to an article I wrote about the psychological problems many people with gastrointestinal problems face. While suicide is a drastic measure, it is not unheard of.

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