In Part I and Part II of this SharePost, I wrote about the emotional challenges that can be present when you are living with or caring for someone with a chronic illness. No doubt about it, if you find yourself in either of these places, you are at an increased risk for depression. But, just like in other aspects of life, challenges are usually accompanied by rewards.
When it comes to chronic illness and caregiving, there are documented positive benefits of both experiences that I hope you can focus on when you need some good news.
1) You're already ahead of the game. With our aging population, MANY of us will eventually become chronically ill or will become a caretaker for someone we love. Not too long ago, a friend of mine recently found out that her mother had cancer, and had gone out of state to provide care for her for a few weeks. When she returned, I asked how she did. She said, "It went well. I kind of felt like after taking care of two children with acid reflux, I could handle almost anything!" I was not surprised, since my own friends frequently call me when they are running into problems with our medical system to ask me for advice (or at least to say, "I don't know how you did it!") They know I have already been through something similar as a result of caring for our son with acid reflux and I am usually able to provide advice about navigating an often uneven medical terrain.
2) Your family may be emotionally closer than they would be otherwise. Not too long ago, a group of parents belonging to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) were surveyed about the psychological impact of caring for a child with food allergies has on their family. One of the findings supported the fact that families with a child with food allergies have greater family cohesion than others in the U.S. population. It makes sense. In order to do what it takes to keep a household running with a chronic illness, everyone has to pull together.
3) You may have a greater sense of compassion. When my oldest son was in preschool, one of the other boys in his class had severe food allergies, and each day his mother had to bake and bring in special food for him to eat. Ready for this one? I thought she was over-protective and enjoyed baking. (The universe sure does have a funny way of straightening us out).
4) You are making a difference in someone's life. As maddening as it can be when someone says, "But he looks great!" Just remember, if he does, it is because of you.
Published On: February 27, 2008