I used to think all I needed to do was find the right doctor, get the right diagnosis, take the right medication, and I would get my life back. That was twenty years ago. Though I have met many great doctors, been given several diagnoses, and taken many, many medications, chronic illness is still a daily part of my life. But it took me more than a decade to accept that.
What started as an undetermined viral illness in 2001 morphed into chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, digestive dysfunction, and immune deficiency. Yet none of those diagnoses or the medications I was taking to control my symptoms bought relief.
So why doesn’t having a diagnosis always mean recovery?
Because there is no one answer to anything. Though we often approach life as if matching a problem with a solution fixes everything, the truth is, there is always a confluence of circumstances coming together to produce our experiences. That is never truer than with a chronic illness.
Whether we inherit disease-causing genes from our parents or whether a chronic illness develops over time or is precipitated by an illness or traumatic event, somewhere between 70 – 90% of chronic illnesses are activated by environmental factors. Not knowing which of these factors are at play is partly why a diagnosis doesn’t always equal recovery.
It took me a long time to realize no one was withholding treatment from me. No one secretly knew what was causing the symptoms that plagued me. There was no magic diagnosis or medication.
Chronic Illness Develops over Time
The CDC says chronic illnesses are “any conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.”
MedicineNet describes a chronic disease as “one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.”
There are many more definitions all saying the same thing. Chronic illnesses develop over time, require ongoing medical attention, limit activity, and are not prevented by vaccines or cured by medication. Small wonder then that diagnosis does not equal recovery. Medications alone cannot cure us, and that’s why a new approach is necessary if you want your life back.
How to Reclaim your Life
No matter your chronic illness or what caused it, there are certain conditions that inflame symptoms and drive dysfunction. Some of these conditions can cause chronic illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes. If you have a chronic illness, they can mean the difference between functioning and being confined to your home. If you want to get your life back, knowing if any of them are contributing to your symptoms and making your life miserable is the first step.
Here’s a quick way to tell if any of these conditions are affecting you and what you can do about it. On a scale of one to five, with one being the least and five being the most, rate your general level of the following:
Each of these attributes corresponds to one of the four essential elements for reclaiming your life. These four elements are the foundation of living successfully, period. A lack of them can cause chronic illnesses, so how much more important do you think they are if you already have one?
We get energy from food, strength from movement, ease of function when our environment is free from toxins and chemicals, and can manage stress better with regular TLC. A score of three or less in energy, strength, and function or a score of three or more for stress indicates an area that needs your attention if you want to feel better.
If you have a low energy score, focus your attention on eating foods that boost your energy and heal your body.
If you feel weak, focus on giving your body a reason to produce muscle and start moving.
If you are struggling to function, take a look at your environment. How many chemicals are you exposing yourself to in your food and body care products. How clean is the air you breathe or the water you drink?
If your stress levels are out of control, you really need some TLC.
In reality, these elements are all interrelated and you get energy as much from freeing your environment from toxins and by movement as you do by eating healthy, energy rich foods. This is why making just one change in any one of these areas has a profound effect on the quality of your life.
What to Do Now
I call this quick test the Reset Meter and use it anytime my symptoms get out of control or when life feels too stressful. It tells me exactly what to do and where to focus my attention to get my life under control again.
If you want to take a more detailed look at what may be inflaming your symptoms and making your life miserable, you can complete our Essential Elements Assessment and book a consultation with a health coach who will help you create a plan to reclaim your life here.
Every Wellness Clusters health coach has been in your shoes. Each one struggled with chronic illness and found a way to reclaim their lives, so they know exactly what you are dealing with and how to help you. The assessment and consultation are totally free and absolutely without obligation.
We are passionate about helping people reclaim their lives and look forward to learning how we can help you.