Therapy and Chronic Illness
Last updated: September 2022
You either hate or love therapy. Some days, it’s both.
I have been in therapy off and on for 9 years, and recently, I found that therapy can be a great tool that can help me process the frustrations of having multiple chronic illnesses.
Not all therapists are the right fit
Previously, my therapy sessions focused on processing past trauma and finding coping techniques for my anxiety and depression. This was useful, to some degree, but I always felt something was missing. I didn’t always feel better after a session because although I was working through some heavy stuff, I still had to go home and deal with my chronic pain and other medical problems.
And I hate to say it, but sometimes I just did not vibe with my therapist. They were usually nice people with the best intentions, but not all therapies and/or therapists are right for someone. It takes time and practice to find the right fit. This journey can be difficult and exhausting.
Finding a therapist who understands
I recently found a therapist who I feel truly understands me, or at least does a good job of empathizing with me instead of sympathizing with me. The difference between empathy and sympathy makes all the difference. I don’t want to be pitied for my conditions, but I do want to feel understood and listened to.
One aspect of therapy we focus on is the challenges I have as someone with chronic illnesses and how traumatizing the medical system can be. On the days I don’t feel like talking because I am in chronic pain or chronically fatigued, my therapist will let me vent about my frustrations without challenging my feelings.
Because of a recent bout of COVID-19 and the severe flares I had after, I missed a ton of work. I was feeling so much guilt, embarrassment, and worry over this. My therapist encouraged me to apply for FMLA. It took me a few more sessions just focusing on the FMLA for me to go through with it. Applying for FMLA left me with a lot of mixed emotions that I needed my therapist to help me process. I felt ashamed to need it. But with therapy, I was able to get my FMLA leave granted and learn all about my rights as an employee.
Therapy helps me with self-care
Overall, therapy helps me with my self-care. I am a person always on the go and always doing things for others. The 1-2 hours a week of therapy helps me slow down, do something for myself, and connect with someone who understands me. We have also come up with a self-care plan for the days I am unable to do my daily tasks. One of the most helpful things to me is talking about how to manage chronic pain and talk to my family about my illness.
Therapy continues to be a journey of ups and downs. Much like having a chronic illness, it has its challenges. There are days I am in so much pain and so exhausted that my coping techniques are useless. But therapy has given me some hope. It’s not a lot, a little light at the end of a tunnel, but at least it’s there.
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?