Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Learning to Live Well With Chronic Illness

girl, writingImage via Wikipedia
I was thinking about how we learn the other day. It seems there are two main ways to approach learning how to do things: study them and do them.

Some people like to study a subject before they attempt to act. I admit that when I first started thinking about writing, for pleasure and as a possible fibro-friendly career, my first thought was I need to take a class and learn how to write. So I headed over to my local community college with the help of my sister and took a couple of evening writing classes.

Some people just jump in and start doing. Using the same writing example, there are countless blogs on the Internet that someone started because they wanted to write. They didn't let a lack of schooling stop them from hanging their shingle that said "I am a writer." There are lots of really great blogs written by people who have absolutely no formal educational background in writing.

I think in an ideal world, learning would incorporate both approaches. I know this was true of my Master's studies in Social Work, where we spent two days a week in class and three days a week in field placement, applying what we learned.

I have found this dual approach very useful in dealing with my chronic illnesses as well. I have discovered that to live well with chronic illness I:

  • read and research to gain new knowledge
  • experiment with new approaches, medications and self-help techniques
  • gather feedback on how they help or don't help
  • adjust my self care routine accordingly
For me, new books about my conditions and new research findings are my textbooks. New medications, supplements and other treatments modalities are my experiments. Logging symptoms and how new approaches effect them is how I gather data on which to base my health care management decisions. My daily routine of planning, pacing, resting, saying no, asking for help and having fun each day is what I continue to fine tune to achieve maximum functioning.

In many ways, being engaged in active learning is key to living your best life with chronic illness. Focusing my efforts equally on studying and doing have helped me get past the push-crash cycle, manage my precious little energy, avoid over-activity and flare-ups and create acceptance, understanding and peace within myself.

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Unknown said...

So true. I have spent years with M.E. and just tried to ignore it but now am realising that I have to face it and accept that it's here to stay and so have started researching and starting to try new methods, hoping that one day something will help.

Jessica said...

Hi...new to your blog and wanted to introduce myself! I am not familiar with thoracic outlet syndrome...but you bet I'm gonna research it! =)