YOU ARE NOT ALONE. HERE ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE YOU WHO HAVE FOUND HOPE.
If a Loved One Has an Illness
If someone you love has a chronic/terminal illness, you may have range of feelings. Some days will be good, and things might seem like they used to. Other days may be harder. There is no one "right" way to feel. When someone in your family has an illness – it can change the way you look at things in life.
It may be hard to share your feelings. You may ignore them and hope they will go away. Holding your feelings inside can prevent you from getting the help you need. Some emotions that teens feel when a family member has an illness are:
- Scared: It's normal to feel scared. Some of your fears may be real. Others may be based on things that won't happen. Some fears may lessen over time.
- Angry: Anger often covers up other feelings that are harder to show. If having this illness in your family means you can't do what you like to do, it’s tough. Don’t let anger build up.
- Neglected: Your family's focus may be changing. Find a time to tell your parents how you feel and what you think may help. Remember that you are important and loved and that you deserve to feel that way, even though you might not get as much attention now.
- Lonely: This is common, especially if the illness is terminal. For now, try to remember that these feelings won't last forever, and pull close to the ones you love.
- Embarrassed: Many teens who felt embarrassed about having a family member with an illness say it gets easier to deal with over time.
- Guilty: You might feel bad about having fun when your loved one is sick. This shows how much you care about them. However, having fun doesn’t mean that you care any less. It’s both okay and important for you to do things that make you happy.
Some teens try to be perfect and not cause trouble. They want to protect their parents and not give them one more thing to worry about. If you feel this way, remember that no one can be perfect all the time. You need time to vent, to feel sad, and to be happy. Other teens may get the wrong kind of attention from the wrong people – which ends up hurting them and their family in the long run.
Try to let your parents, or another trusted adult, know how you feel. It is probably hard to imagine right now, but, if you let yourself, you can grow stronger as a person through this experience. Some teens have found that having a family member with a serious illness changes the way they look at life. Some said this experience helped them to become stronger and more appreciative, over time.
These tips can help you cope during this difficult situation:
- Write down your thoughts in a journal. Research has found this really works!
- Join a support group to meet other kids who are facing some of the same things you are. Who knows, you might get some good advice.
- Find a friend who’s a really good listener and who cares about you. Talk with a teacher at school. Meet with a counselor either in or out of school.
Getting Used to Chronic Illness
It can be a shock to learn you have a chronic illness. You may ask "why me?" or "where did it come from?"
- Sometimes nothing can explain why you got the illness.
- The illness may run in your family.
- You may have been exposed to something that caused the illness.
As you learn more about your illness and how to take care of yourself, your feelings may change. Fear or shock may give way to:
- Anger because you have the illness
- Sadness or depression because you may not be able to live the way you used to
- Confusion or stress about how to take care of yourself
Your Image of Yourself May Change
You may feel like you are not a whole person anymore. You might be embarrassed or ashamed that you have an illness. Know that, with time, your illness will become part of you and you will have a new normal.
You will learn to live with your illness. You will get used to your new normal. For example:
- A person with diabetes may need to learn to test their blood sugar and give insulin several times a day. This becomes their new normal.
- A person with asthma may need to carry an inhaler and avoid things that may cause an asthma attack. This is their new normal.
Expect to Feel Overwhelmed
You may be overwhelmed by:
- How much there is to learn
- What lifestyle changes you need to make. For example, you may be trying to change your diet, quit smoking, and exercise.
Be Gentle with Yourself
- Know that you will adapt over time. You will feel like yourself again as you learn how to fit your illness into your life.
- Know that what may be confusing at first starts to make sense. Give yourself time to learn how to take care of your illness.
Feelings and Emotions Over Time
Know that it takes a lot of energy to manage your chronic illness every day. Sometimes, this can affect your outlook and mood. Sometimes you may feel very alone. This is especially true during times when your illness is harder to manage.
You may sometimes feel some of the feelings you had when you first got the illness:
- Depressed that you have the illness. It feels like life will never be okay again.
- Angry. It still seems unfair that you have the illness.
- Afraid that you will become very ill over time.
Know that your range of feelings is normal. Stress can make it harder for you to take care of your chronic illness. You can learn to cope with stress to help you manage day to day.
Find ways to decrease stress that work for you and that you may even enjoy. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk.
- Read a book or watch a movie.
- Try exercising, stretching, or breathing exercises.
- Take an art class, play an instrument, or listen to music.
- Call or spend time with a friend.
Finding healthy, fun ways to cope with stress helps many people. If your stress lasts, talking with a therapist might help you deal with the many feelings that come up. Ask your health care provider for help finding a therapist.
Learn More about Your Illness
- Learn how to live with your chronic illness. At first it might seem like it is controlling you, but the more you learn and can do for yourself, the more normal and in control you will feel.
- Know more about your illness so you can manage it and feel better about it. Find information on the Internet, at a library, and from social networks, support groups, national organizations, and local hospitals.
- Ask your provider for websites you can trust. Not all the information you find online is from reliable sources.