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Living with an invisible illness

Living with an invisible illness such as fibromaylgia, M.E, rheumatoid arthritis brings psychological obstacles for sufferers on top of the pain and discomfort of the illness in question.

There are many thousands of people living in Ireland with an invisible illness and these conditions include chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidisim, chronic fatigue/M.E., fibromyalgia, lupus and cancer amongst others. Both the illness and the way we think about it can affect our mental health.

It can be very difficult to cope with physical symptoms such as pain and fatigue on a daily basis and many people report that it is the illness's impact on their way of thinking which causes them the most difficulty.

The physical limitations illness places on our lives means that for many people, there is a limit to how much activity they can complete in a given day and this can cause immense frustration.

There may be significant guilt about saying no to social invitations. Many find it difficult to explain their illness and limitations to children. Many have to plan even simple trips and activities such as grocery shopping in advance. This can cause significant mental stress and worry.

Often people who have lived with illness for some time find that when and if they start to feel better, their way of thinking may need addressing- they may find themselves still thinking within the limitations of the illness.

This way of thinking can cause stress in itself so it is important to be aware of the thoughts and feelings you have about your body and your illness.

Using visualisation techniques to flood your mind and body with positive feelings will help the healing process. Focusing on feelings of love releases oxytocin, a feel good hormone.

Research shows that EFT (emotional freedom technique) is particularly useful for boosting positive feelings and energy.

Although those close to you may try to understand how you feel, remember that it is impossible for someone who is not living with an invisible illness to completely understand how you feel. Support groups are very useful in these circumstances including Grow (see who meet each week.

I have found that using EFT(Emotional Freedom Technique) with my clients has helped them to reduce the amount of physical pain they experience and it also reduces the stress related to the illness.

The psychological stress associated with the illness can also further exacerbate physical symptoms so in this way, it is crucial to find a way to keep stress levels under control.

Try to find enjoyable ways to relax such as reading, gardening, listening to music, taking a nap.

Be aware of how you are speaking to yourself- often clients with an invisible illness are hardest on themselves and speak critically to themselves throughout the day.

Learn to be gentle with yourself when times are difficult. If you cannot keep your stress levels low, it may be useful to speak to your G.P or learn a mindfulness or EFT practice to help you to feel calm and relaxed.



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