5 Tips for Coping With Chronic Illness

Disclaimer – The following opinions are based off my own experiences. I am not a healthcare professional. Please consult a qualified, licensed, healthcare professional before making any adjustments to your health care regimen.

Chronic illness leaves most of us feverishly searching for solutions to ease our symptoms. We comb the internet: read blogs, read posts, join in on forums, and watch tweets. Thankfully people are pretty good about sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with regard to the latest and greatest things they’ve tried. With 13 years of chronic illness experience I thought I’d share the top five things that have worked for me.

  1. Diet – Some of these recommendations come from 10+ years experience and others are fairly new. Again what worked for me may not work for you.
    • Bone broth – The homeopath recommended I stop chewing malox all day, everyday and start drinking bone broth. I had nausea and heartburn, as well as B12 that just kept falling (pernicious anemia). Initially I thought I could not give up the malox and honestly I still use it maybe twice a month but nothing like before. Here’s what happened when I started drinking a half cup of warm bone broth in the mornings. The nausea let up, not completely, but it was better, and the heartburn was gone, additionally my B12 levels rose half way back up. I still take sublingual methyl B12 but now it’s every other day at 1,000 mcg., which keeps my labs happy. So folks believe what you will but wow, I was shocked at these results simply from drinking bone broth.
    • Black strap molasses – When I first saw the homeopath I was battling anemia and low folate and this really helped. I took 1 teaspoon in my morning in my oatmeal for about a month. Between this and the bone broth the anemia corrected itself.
    • No caffeine – Caffeine makes my fibromyalgia pain go screaming off the charts and I miss it, oh do I miss it, but it’s not worth the pain.
    • No sugar – Well this one is just one big, yucky bummer! But if I eat sugar I have pain. Fruit and raw honey are totally fine but refined sugar within 48 hours causes a major pain flare. Now don’t get me wrong once in a while I lose my willpower and I’ll eat a little vegan ice cream or something of that nature, but on a daily basis I say no to sugar. I love sugar folks, love it so very much. If you haven’t yet, try cutting it out for a week, if your pain level stays the same, then nevermind, but if it gets a little better, now you know how to make your pain a little better.
    • Chamomile tea – When I first came down with CFS my anxiety was off the charts. I was worried for my mental health but as things started to calm down and I received a diagnoses things got a little better. And then I found this tea. I’d had other chamomile teas but this one, this particular one that’s made with only the flowers and not the stems settles my soul. If you have anxiety I highly recommend you give this tea a try. I do not medicate for anxiety, I just drink one in the morning and one at night. And if I miss two teas my anxiety goes back up, so I know it’s working.
    • Garlic and honey – Last but not least, the grossest thing imaginable. Raw crushed garlic in raw organic honey. This helps me, not cures me, but helps. It gives me a little general boost. It’s gross and I try to do it for a couple of weeks at a time and then hold off for a month or so to not irritate the lining of my stomach. So before bed I crush a big clove and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, I then put it on top of honey on a spoon and take it like a shot. Expert tip! Don’t let it touch your tongue and have something to drink close by.
  2. Meditation – Before I tried meditation I had all these preconceived notions of what it should look like based on what I’d seen on TV. I never tried it because the thought of sitting silently deep in my own head, well, that’s just not something I’m comfortable with, even now. Here’s what I didn’t know…there’s guided meditation, where the person talks the whole time, and that, well that’s for me! I find it very similar to the wind down at the end of yoga. I was referred to the CALM app and chose the quickest one, three minutes, and then selected loving kindness. I immediately loved it. Here’s why. I was so angry at my body for failing me, like bottled up anger that you don’t want to touch. Meditating helped me to fall back in love with my body and be kinder to it despite its flaws. I’ve read that mindful meditation is healing for the brain and I’m sure it is, but for me, it helped heal my soul. If you’ve been putting it off, just give it a little go. It’s free and you can do it lying flat on your back.
  3. Walking – I know some of you aren’t able to walk and my heart just reaches out to you and gives you the biggest hug. Walking has always been my go-to choice of movement. When I was three I was in a terrible accident wherein I had to learn to walk all over again and then at 12 I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in my knees (I now believe that was fibromyalgia because it never went away and I don’t have arthritis) so walking hasn’t always come easily to me, but boy do I love it. A good walk on the beach used to cure my heart of all that ailed it, now those walks have been shortened to around the block. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t walk my fibromyalgia pain becomes intolerable. Even if it’s just to the mailbox, I have to move. It almost instantly eases my joints. Here’s the catch, since CFS decided to take me down I can only walk a short bit. So I have to be very careful to keep my walks the same length because if I walk too far that’s just asking for trouble instantly and long-term. Again I’m not a healthcare professional so you need to listen to your own body but if it feels right to you, try moving a little, but just a little at a time.
  4. Music – This one might not be for everyone, but I love music. My dad was a musical genius and could play any instrument, but he was very humble and reserved so not many knew this about him. Anyway, I grew up with music and much like my father have always loved the escape it provides. I stumbled across something when I was pretty new to CFS that said that music decreases pain. So I researched it and sure enough, after several studies music was found to decrease the feeling of pain. So daily I listen to at least a half hour of whatever I want each day. Pandora has been great because not only can I listen to my favorite artists but it has also introduced me to new ones and all for free. If you haven’t tried music therapy, give it a go. You can pick your favorite artist, input it in Pandora and hopefully soon you’ll find yourself lost in sweet melodies. It’s not like morphine but it does transport the mind away from the pain for a bit.
  5. Crafts – Again, perhaps not for everyone, but I can tell you after spending some time in a couple of online craft groups (Chronic Creatives on facebook is my favorite) that all types of people are crafty. The crafting possibilities are truly endless. There’s crochet, knitting, painting, drawing, photography, felting, card making, creating objects from metal and glass, and about a bazillon other things. So if you feel like you’re just sitting in bed with nothing to do maybe Google crafts you can do in bed, or whatever matches your criteria. Some people simply have a pen and a piece of paper and make zentangles. I started with crochet but a frozen shoulder and expense steered me away after a while. Plus buying yarn online isn’t my thing as I need to see it and feel it to make sure it’s what I want and I can’t always get to the store. So I gave up crochet and started with watercolor. It’s less expensive and everything can be ordered online. I’m sure there are very expensive options for watercolor supplies, but I choose the economical options. Here’s why I’m recommending crafting, it gets you out of your head for a bit, it changes your scenery and it gives you a sense of accomplishment. When your life is spent in bed with idle hands, hours slip into days that slip into months that slip into years. One day you may look back and think, what have I done with my precious time. Here’s the important part…it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your crafts, you are doing them for YOU. So when you look back on this season in your life you can say hey I made that, and that too. And you can smile, even if just on the inside because when you felt like life was passing you by you decided to say, not today.

Thank you for following along.  Please feel free to comment any tips of your own that have helped you better navigate your chronic illness. Below is my little watercolor from this months prompt of Simple Pleasures on World Watercolor Group’s daily challenge.

Prompt: Bird Watching


13 thoughts on “5 Tips for Coping With Chronic Illness

  1. A friend once recommended I grate a bulb of garlic, mix in with a bit of honey and just EAT IT. I, being an unsuspecting fool, did just that – and spent the rest of the day dry retching! It was so bad! Your way is much better haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I kept trying honey, fruit and molasses in years past as “healthy” options. Turns out, oops, when I did the FODMAP elimination that I’m fructose malabsorbant. Major IBS trigger, oops! I’m also one of the rarer dysautonomics for whom caffeine stabilizes – I’m guessing related to the ADHD and how stimulants help us. I’ve had this vague intention to write a post at some point about how I am almost the opposite of everything that helps others with chronic ilness in some ways, but the no sugar and no wheat (allergy to it makes me defacto gluten free) things do work. I’ve recently discovered bone broth, and apparently that helps me too. Guess maybe I’m not totally abnormal after all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading along! Isn’t it amazing how truly different each body reacts? The body is so fine tuned and yet doctors make us feel like we are bonkers if we tell them we have intolerable side effects or what occurred from something as simple as caffeine. To further that point they throw these one-size-fits-all medications at us and expect our bodies to have the same reactions. I can tell you that things like probiotics, vitamin C and apple cider vinegar, all at very low doses, have made me wretchedly ill. While others swear by those things. I’m glad to hear bone broth is getting the thumbs up from your body! It makes my hair and nails grow quickly…not a bad thing😊. Hoping your day is best as can be🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma (Not Just Tired)

    Lovely post. Thank you. So interesting to read what works for your nutritionally. As someone with a nutrition background, I’m always amazed at how we’re all so different – and as you’ve said how one approach does not work for all. I’m still learning about my own needs as I go! I’m in the middle of a blog post on easier ways to eat healthily with a chronic illness so we’re on the same vibe! I’ve never tried bone broth but always been intrigued. It’s something I should try! Like you I’ve found such big benefits from meditation. I also find music very calming and craft is my ‘go to’ activity to do with my toddler when I need to take it easy – not that it’s usually any good!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading along! Isn’t it so challenging to eat a balanced diet when ill? I lack the energy or desire to cook and then eat a big plate of food. So I try to eat at least one thing from each food group everyday. When I first got sick my stomach taught me pretty quickly what it would tolerate and it’s minimal.

      I slowly and humbly adopted a new theory about crafting with an illness. It’s therapeutic in that it moves your mind from pain and struggle to simply being creative. It’s like a little micro-holiday for your brain. So totally okay if it isn’t what you were hoping for, more important that you let your brain rest and be creative. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway because I’m still not really getting any better😁 Hoping your day is best as can be!🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. It strikes me how many people who have CFS have heart burn and a B12 deficiency, even though this is not recognized as an official symptom. I will definitely be trying the bone broth :).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would replace music in the post with prayer. Prayer is a very powerful thing providing you have full belief and conviction in what you believe in. Crafts is what I did when I was terribly ill and bed bound in hospital. It took my mind away from the pain for a while. Either I did some drawing, painting or mainly I just wrote. All I needed was a pen and paper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading along! Finding the things that help you cope are life altering. It warms my heart to hear you have found ways to make life more bearable. And you are so right, even with just a pen and paper you can begin to explore the limits of your imagination. Hoping your day is good as can be.😊


      1. You’re welcome. It is really a process of trial and error. Finding new ways which will help you at the same time keep you happy because when you’re not feeling well it’s a bit hard to stay happy and positive. A pen and paper is amazing as long as you can hold it 😕

        Liked by 1 person

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