Growing up and being a teenager or young adult is often difficult for people, for a wide variety of different personal reasons, be it learning to love yourself, trying to become a better person, getting to grips with adult life, or something entirely personal to you. Life itself can be tough enough when you’re trying to manage university deadlines, working, maintaining a good social life and also finding time to chill out, eat and sleep. So, when a chronic illness is thrown into the mix, it can often be extremely overwhelming and a lot of hard work to have that added stress and pressure on top of all the usual struggles.
With chronic illnesses becoming more and more popular amongst young people in the western world, more of us are wondering how to deal with the trials and tribulations of a chronic illness alongside the regular young person struggles. That’s why, as a 21 year old suffering from a chronic illness (good old Crohn’s disease to be precise – let me know in the comments if any fellow IBD sufferers are reading this!) I’m going to talk you through some things that might just help make life a little easier on you if you’re a young person struggling with a chronic illness.
1. Remember you’re not alone
It’s so easy when you’re tripping back and forth to the hospital and GP appointments to feel like you’re alone. Sitting in waiting room after waiting room, feeling like you can relate to an eighty-year-old better than your own friends can be pretty lonely and you can quickly feel like you’re alone. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are without a doubt hundreds of thousands of young people experiencing the same feeling all over the world – you’re not alone at all. If you’re ever feeling alone, talk to a friend, family member, or even a colleague or teacher, as sharing these thoughts can instantly make you feel less alone.
2. Join a support group
With the fact that you’re not alone in mind, the best way to really bring that home is to join a support group and make some friends that know exactly what you’re going through. Being able to discuss your struggles and have someone who understands and relates and can offer specific advice can be a huge comfort.
3. Be realistic, don’t try to do too much and give yourself time to rest
Rather than feeling down about having a chronic illness, you might go the opposite way and instead try to take on too much to prove to yourself or the people around you that you can do more than you probably should do. Always be realistic about what you do and don’t ever feel like a failure for having to cancel plans with a friend or take a day off work to rest – your health is important and should always come first. You are strong and you don’t need to prove that by taking on too much and making yourself unwell.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s so easy to compare what you are and aren’t doing to what people that aren’t in your position are doing. Remember, we all do things at our own pace and in our own time when we’re ready. For example, if your illness is preventing you from doing something that your friends can do or you find something tougher than other people, don’t worry because we are all different and you’re not a failure for being different – different is good and the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.
5. Remember your life isn’t over
It’s very easy when you’re given that life-changing news to instantly think your life is over and everything you’d imagined for your future is now hopeless. However, that definitely isn’t the case I promise you. Although your life quite likely will be different from what you had envisaged, it doesn’t mean that it won’t still be good. You might have to come to terms with the fact that some of the things you’d hoped to do in the future might have to be done a little differently, but don’t let it all overwhelm you and convince yourself that you now have no future – you can still be successful and happy and fulfil your dreams, you might just have to take a longer, tougher route to get there.