The Emotional Impact of Illness

Physical health is often the sole focus of rehabilitation when you have been physically ill: emotional health tends to be forgotten, or you may not be offered help in the same way as for your physical health. Even when the focus is on your recovery from mental illness, you may not get the support you need.

Your life with or following your illness may be very different to life before, and can take a long time to adjust to. Being ill can itself be a traumatic experience, and the changes that follow may leave you feeling lost and alone. With any change comes a sense of loss and may be accompanied by feelings of grief.

Some of the changes you may experience include:

  • Loss of role and identity
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem
  • Loss of independence
  • More emotional than before
  • Experience of anxiety, panic, depression, trauma

You may have found yourself literally fighting for your life, which can be both terrifying, and give you the opportunity to reassess your life. As joyful as it can be to recover from such an illness, you may be left feeling stunned, as the death you were preparing yourself for never came.

 Family Members, Friends and Carers

Family and friends can also experience huge changes when a loved one is ill. You may take on the role of carer, which can be a huge adjustment. You may experience feelings such as:

  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue (emotional and physical)
  • Depression

You may also have traumatic memories of seeing your loved one struggle with their health both during and after their illness. When someone is ill, the focus is on them which can often leave those supporting that person feeling forgotten about as they too struggle through the daily challenges that illness brings.

Take some time to talk about it

Of course, we all experience ups and downs in life and problems that were around before your ill health (or your loved one’s ill health) may still be there for you to deal with. In the same way, ill health does not stop other things happening in your life. What may change is your ability to cope, especially if you are still dealing with any after-effects of your illness, or progressing with your recovery. Counselling is a safe place for you to explore the impact of your own or someone else’s physical and/or mental illness, as well as any other issues in your life.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hughes

 

 

Comparing Pain

How do you compare one type of pain with another? The simple answer is that you can’t and yet we all do it. At one time or another we have probably all said something like ‘I know this is such a small problem compared to the war in…’ or ‘this is nothing compared to what other people go through’ or even ‘you’ve probably talked to people with much worse problems than mine.’ woman-1373188336xVV

Our problems often seem insignificant compared to what is going on in the world around us, or in the lives of people we know, and it can be all too easy to beat yourself up and feel like you should be coping better or that you’re weak for feeling this way.

It’s important to recognise that while, yes, the world is full of horrendous problems and crises, whether they be famine, war or natural disaster, the thoughts and feelings that make up our internal ‘world’ can be as devastating, debilitating and potentially destructive to who we are as individuals if we ignore them. Having perspective does not mean valuing yourself less than someone or something else.

So, why do we do this to ourselves? Perhaps it is a reflection of how much self-compassion we have that we minimise and deny painful emotions and experiences; perhaps the image we hold of ourselves is ‘the person who copes’ or ‘the person who supports everyone else’; or maybe it comes down to self-esteem and not feeling worthy of receiving help and support, even if you are teetering on the edge of an emotional cliff.

As a counsellor, I aim to provide a safe space for people to express their feelings, including their pain and insecurities. Pain is such an individual experience and means different things to different people: you do matter and what you’re going through is important, no matter how small it might seem.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hughes

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