How to Stay Positive When Life Includes Serious Chronic Illness

How to Stay Positive When Life Includes a Serious Chronic Illness

A teen with ulcerative colitis has this advice for the millions of Americans battling a chronic illness.
‘The mountains I climb today will lead to the peaks I’ll reach tomorrow,’ the author writes.

By Sneha Dave July 17, 2015 | 11:02 a.m. EDT + More
I remember when I was carefree, and could step outside with a Cheshire-cat smile, worrying about nothing more than when snack time was. After being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 6, I longed to reclaim that peaceful mindset free of worries, doubts and insecurities.

While it’s difficult to stay positive during a severe illness, it’s amazing how much you can overcome the negativity that infringes upon you in tough times. Here’s what has helped me get by:

Know That Better Moments Are to Come

There was a point when I’d wake up around 20 times a night to use the restroom. I could barely get any sleep. These nights were absolutely dreadful, as I would awake with spasms that would paralyze every part of my body. The pain was unimaginable, but I knew I had to get through it. I clung to the notion that things would get better. They had to. If I could just get through the current situation, I would have less pain. Keep on believing you can conquer the worst moments; better ones await.

Count Your Blessings

Ulcerative colitis has made me resilient; it’s given me the strength I’ll need to fight the other inevitable struggles that will arise in my life. I focus on the small things that I am so fortunate to be able to do now, such as taking simple walks around the neighborhood or going on hikes, since I could do so little just a couple of years ago, before undergoing surgery.

Work to Create Change

When I was experiencing a huge flare-up, I felt alone; I really had no one I could relate to with this illness. I knew this must be the same for the 80,000 other teens in America who are living with Crohn’s and colitis. That’s what inspired me to create change by starting a nonprofit, the Crown’s and Colitis Teen Times. I have become addicted to philanthropy; it brings me a sense of emotional healing. It is not necessary to start something big – maybe just a support group that meets monthly. The opportunities to create support are endless and could start with just joining the local chapter of the organization advocating on behalf of your disease; or if there isn’t one, work to raise awareness via other avenues.

Remember: The Situation Could Be Worse

While it may seem as if the emotional and physical pain curve couldn’t get any higher, people are enduring worse situations. Most likely there are people suffering with your illness in Third World countries without access to the treatments you receive. Not only this, but there are people who don’t know what’s in store for them. My best friend who passed away from bone cancer and Crohn’s disease was always positive. He went through worse ordeals than me, and when I was in pain or couldn’t bear the mental devastation, I thought about his resilience and that I am fortunate to be in my situation. I knew I had the resources to partially get back the life I once had. I am so grateful for the treatment opportunities I have been able to access.

Find Something That Makes You Happy

While this is obvious, it bears repeating: It’s so important to find something that keeps you busy and something you can rely on to make you happy. After coming home from my first surgery, I was certainly depressed. While this severe depression lasted only a short while, my mother convinced me to do something that would take my mind off the situation. For me it was philanthropy and giving back, but for many people it is art or music. Surround yourself with some or many activities that can be an escape from your illness.

Living with a chronic illnesses is definitely not easy, but realizing that changing my attitude could make my situation easier has been so helpful. These are struggles I will cherish as they made me who I am today. The mountains I climb today will lead to the peaks I’ll reach tomorrow.

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