Finding Peace While Battling a Short-Term Infection That Turns Into A Chronic Illness
Chronic illness is defined as a medical condition that lasts for a year or more, as many have experienced diagnosed and battling a C. difficile infection. This condition is often not well understood by the medical community. It may take many months to obtain an accurate diagnosis and then, may take even longer to get the correct treatment regimen in place. In the meantime, the patient becomes depleted in body and soul resulting in a disruption of normal day to day activities because of limited mobility and/or independence. This can affect emotional, physical and financial stability. The individual may experience a loss of control and may experience feelings of frustration, anger and even grief. A sense of hopelessness may follow. As with other chronic medical conditions, individuals with C. Diff are at risk for developing clinical depression. Recent studies indicate that up to one third of those dealing with a chronic illness have co-occurring depressive symptoms. (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-illnesses-depression). While full blown clinical depression will not be experienced by all individuals diagnosed with C. diff, certainly they are likely to feel high levels of stress and situational sadness related to their condition.
Only a mental health professional may diagnose clinical depression and recommend a treatment plan which may include medication as an intervention. However, it is important to be aware of the risk of depression and know that there are strategies you can employ to improve mood and sense of control.
Be Involved in Your Treatment – You are the Expert about You!
o Only you know what your C. difficile infection symptoms and experience feels like to you.
o Be confident that you have the right doctor and be honest about symptoms, feelings and ongoing challenges you are facing.
o Don’t hesitate to ask questions and to expect answers, even if the answer is that there is little information available.
Learn About C. diff. – Your understanding about your illness is beneficial.
o Finding out more about your condition increases your sense of control.
o Make sure to seek information from reputable sources. Not every website has accurate information. Use valid resources from the C Diff Foundation to find the best resources for information about this condition.
Seek Support – You are Not Alone in your Experience of a C. difficile infection:
o Define your circle of support – who can you count out to be there for you when you need them. This could include your spouse, family, friends and others who are struggling with a chronic illness.
Follow A Healthy Lifestyle Plan – You Can Impact Your Overall Well-being
o Eat a healthy diet that is recommended by your healthcare provider. Make healthy food choices despite challenges faced by a C. diff. infection. Food can be important medicine.
o Exercise several times a week. Do something you like and don’t have unrealistic expectations. You may be weakened by your condition so adjust the type and length of exercise to your energy level. Take a walk, weed a small garden, do yoga, dance….just do it!
o Decrease stress. Prioritize your activities to do what you have to, what you want to….then let the rest go, if you have to. Just say No. You have permission.
Consider Your Spiritual Journey – You Can Grow Stronger Despite Your Illness
o Spirituality may buffer you from some of the negative effects of a C. diff. infection.
o Prayer and/or self talk can bring a healthier attitude and overall well-being.
o Find gratitude for your life and seek opportunities to grow in a personal way from your experiences.
Have Dreams and Believe in Yourself – What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?
o Diagnosis of an illness, such as a C. difficile infection. may slow down your life plan but it certainly does not have to halt your journey.
o Sometimes slowing down is a reason to be grateful….you may learn something about yourself or others that you didn’t know before.
Just a word of caution – If you find that your feelings of sadness or frustration become more intense to the point of feeling hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, immediately seek an evaluation and treatment. Your doctor or local mental health center will be able to help you find the urgent mental health intervention that you may need.
NEXT MONTH – C. diff. and Relationships: How Short-Term/Long-Term Illness May Affect How You Relate to Others
Lesa Bridges, LCSW, MSW, Chairperson Mental Health Advisory Committee