Do you feel powerless in the face of your chronic illness and everything that comes with it? This year, we will help you transform into being empowered in your health care and your life!
Every year here on RAHealthCentral, we choose an overarching theme for the year. Not all of our posts will be about that theme, but it guides much of what we do. For 2017, we chose the theme of Becoming Empowered with a Chronic Illness.
What is empowerment?
The English Oxford Living Dictionaries define empowerment as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”
A big part of empowerment is the locus of control, that is, who or what is in charge of your life. When you live with chronic illness, it can feel as if control has been wrested away from you in different ways. The illness is in control of how you feel physically and emotionally at any given moment and sometimes, health professionals may not be particularly good at involving you in decision-making. Becoming empowered means taking back that control.
How being empowered can help you
I should preface this section by pointing out that you can’t control your chronic illness with the powers of your mind (even though many of us try). However, becoming empowered can be helpful in how you approach living with a chronic condition.
Feeling helpless and not in control is a factor in depression. A study utilizing data from the World Health Organization’s World Health Survey of a quarter of a million people looked at the connection between chronic physical illness and depression. The analysis showed that up to a quarter of those who live with chronic conditions experienced depression related to the illness.
A European study on empowerment looked at the benefits it could have in the management of diabetes. As with so many other chronic illnesses, the day-to-day management of diabetes has increasingly moved to being the responsibility of the person with the condition. The researcher of the study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in 2010, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Ph.D., stated that this gain in independence can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life. As well, the wider ramifications of empowering individuals with chronic illness can in fact improve healthcare by creating a more holistic view of people with medical conditions.
The direct benefits to becoming empowered are that it puts you back in the driver’s seat, enabling you to identify what you need and giving you the confidence to go get it. For instance, taking control of your medical care can mean researching your condition and treatments, talking to other people in the community, actively building partnerships with your health care team, and becoming an advocate for yourself and others. Through this process of empowerment, you reclaim your life, finding ways to live as fully and joyfully as possible.
How we will help you become empowered
Throughout 2017, we will look at different topics and perspectives that can help you become more empowered in terms of managing your medical care, as well as in embracing your life. We will share tips on how to become empowered and how to use the skills you already have to deal with your chronic illness and the changes it has created in your life.
Learning from each other, mentoring and being mentored, can help you learn more effectively and feel supported during a period of change. We are going to share stories of people who have travelled the path to empowerment before you. We’ll interview inspirational people to find out how they came from the states of confusion that are so common at the start of a chronic illness to a higher quality of life.
During the year, we’ll be available to talk to you about different topics and perspectives related to becoming empowered and everything else related to life with chronic illness. You can find us here on the RAHealthCentral site and on our Facebook page. We look forward to sharing this exciting process with you!
See More Helpful Articles:
Lene’s new book isChronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness. She is also the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain,7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, and the award-winning blogThe Seated View.
Lene Andersen is the Community Leader for HealthCentral’s RA Community. Lene (pronounced Lena) is an award-winning writer, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. She’s written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Follow Lene on Twitter @TheSeatedView and on Facebook. Watch her story on HealthCentral.