Are You Struggling To Manage A Chronic Illness?
Have you recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness and feel overwhelmed by the changes you must make in your lifestyle, diet and overall care? Or, have you been living with chronic illness for a long time, and find it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms and feel good about yourself? Maybe you feel confused or exhausted by the “rules” you need to follow. It may seem as though symptoms and treatments make dating, going out with friends, traveling, raising a family or exceling in your career impossible. Perhaps, when you think about your future, you only picture medical expenses, stress and pain, and you worry about what might happen to you and your loved ones if/when your condition worsens. Do you feel as though you’ve lost a sense of purpose and control over your life? Do you wish you could separate your identity from your illness and develop the ability to cope with symptoms while living life on your terms?
Chronic illness and chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life. You may feel alienated from and/or betrayed by your body and cut off from the possibility of living an independent, fulfilling life. If you’ve been feeling defeated and hopeless, perhaps you have been neglecting your health, leading to more frequent and severe symptoms, as well as increased shame and guilt. Anxiety and depression might also be having a negative impact on your physical health. You may feel stuck, isolated and angry with your body, doctors and everyone who doesn’t understand what you’re going though. Or, perhaps you’re struggling with a distressing tangle of emotions, desperate for a way to lighten this burden.
If You Are Living With Chronic Illness, You Are Not Alone
Chronic illnesses, including Crohn’s disease, diabetes and addiction, are more common than they may seem. In fact, thanks to improvements in medical science, technology and healthcare, many people are now living with illnesses that were once assuredly fatal, including HIV and forms of cancer. Unfortunately, despite increased cultural understanding and acceptance, chronic illnesses still carry an unjustified, painful stigma. For example, people with HIV often face discrimination due to misinformation about the causes and spread of the disease. Or, those with diabetes are sometimes accused of worsening their own health through poor diet and lifestyle choices. If you’ve encountered similar criticisms or misconceptions, it’s understandable that you feel misunderstood, embarrassed or afraid of speaking openly about your experience.
Medical concerns and a confusing healthcare system can make coping with chronic illness feel even more difficult. The process of getting a diagnosis can be long and complicated, sometimes with few satisfying answers. After diagnosis, many people struggle to find a treatment plan that works for them, and weighing medication benefits against side effects can feel like a lose-lose situation. Conversations with doctors can seem more confusing than instructive, especially if you don’t know how to explain your symptoms or feel as though your concerns aren’t taken seriously. Between rushed appointments, invasive procedures, medical expenses and all the other stresses in your life, attempts to take care of yourself can feel increasingly demoralizing.
Add physical pain, fear, grief, stress and uncertainty into the mix, and it’s no wonder that studies show that anxiety, depression and chronic illness are all linked. And, mental illness can contribute to physical symptoms, making it difficult to understand the root of particular symptoms or find an appropriate treatment method. You may feel caught in an inescapable loop.
Thankfully, you don’t have to navigate all of these variables alone. By working with chronic illness therapist who can understand, both personally and professionally, what you are going through, you can gain confidence and clarity and discover a better way to take care of yourself.
Chronic Illness Counseling Can Help You Live Your Best Life
Whether you’ve only just been diagnosed or you’ve lived with chronic illness as long as you can remember, I can help you work through whatever challenges you’re facing today. In sessions, you can speak openly and honestly about your experience without fear of judgment. Talking to someone who listens and understands gives you a voice and can help you work through any internalized stigma preventing you from feeling confident, capable and worthwhile. While your illness is a part of your life that needn’t be marginalized, you are more than your diagnosis, and therapy can help you embrace and express your complete self.
As chronic illness therapist, my approach is strength-based and solutions-focused, and I will help you set goals and develop practical strategies to meet them. I will adapt each session to your individual concerns and needs, offering you practical tools, skills and support tailored to your experience. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by the healthcare system, I can help you navigate points of confusion, create a comprehensive list of questions and develop the self-assurance needed to advocate for yourself.
If co-occurring anxiety, depression and chronic illness are making it even more challenging to engage in your life and take care of yourself, therapy can help you develop the insight and acceptance you need to feel good about yourself and your future. Together, we can practice stress management and relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing, so you can stop feeling ruled by fear and come into the present moment. By developing effective coping skills, you can strike a balance between attending to your physical health and focusing on your individual values, responsibilities and interests. You can fully understand that chronic illness does not detract from your strength and worth.
I have a master’s degree in clinical social work with a specialty in healthcare and disability, and I have personally gone through the process of diagnosis and chronic disease management. I know that things can get better. By developing and practicing effective coping techniques, you can focus your energies on your career, relationships and everything else that makes your life worthwhile. With guidance and support, you don’t have to settle for living with chronic illness. Instead, you can thrive.
You may have questions or concerns about therapy for chronic conditions…
You aren’t an expert in my particular illness.
The skills I offer are useful for almost anyone coping with chronic illness. Even if I am not familiar with the specifics of the illness you’re struggling with, I can help you navigate your healthcare, make a plan to communicate with your doctor, find relief from anxiety and depression, organize your care and more. I believe you are an expert in your own life, and I won’t act like I have all the answers. Instead, I will collaborate with you to help you meet your needs and goals.
I already have so many appointments. How can I possibly make room for chronic illness counseling?
Although therapy may not seem as important as medical appointments, it is a huge part of your overall care. Sessions offer you a break from life’s demands and an opportunity to talk about concerns that you may not feel comfortable sharing with others. And, the skills you develop during therapy can help you feel more energized, motivated and fully present in other aspects of your life.
Because I understand how challenging it can be to balance appointments and the rest of your obligations, I offer evening and weekend sessions. We can also meet once every two weeks, or figure out another plan that works with your schedule.
I’m afraid you won’t take my symptoms seriously, or that you’ll share what I say with my doctor.
Your doctor doesn’t need to know everything we talk about in sessions, but it can be beneficial for him or her to know that you are seeking chronic illness counseling. It is also useful for me to know any medications you are taking, especially if there are potential side effects that could impact your mental health. That said, you don’t have to tell your doctor anything you don’t want to. Therapy is a safe space for you to be open and honest.
And, if you are concerned because your symptoms haven’t been linked to a physical cause, please know that your pain isn’t any less real or valid, and I will not dismiss your experience. Instead, I will help you identify the source of your pain and find a treatment that can really help. In my practice, I work with a wide variety of clients with a wide variety of symptoms and diagnoses. There is help available for you.
You Can Gain Control Over Your Life
If you are struggling with chronic illness, or if you are caring for a loved one who is, I invite you to call me at 917-765-4743 for a free phone consultation. We can discuss your concerns, and I can answer any questions you have about chronic illness counseling and my practice in New York, NY.