Kathi Whitten, LCSW - Individual, Couple & Family Psychotherapy
                  When Illness Strikes Let Others Into Your Life

Life is going along at a normal pace—when suddenly, you are given a Diagnosis. You are told that you have a serious illness—something that will turn your life upside down in a flash—but that part hasn’t sunk in yet. A Diagnosis—a mysterious invader has taken up residence in your body. Shock… numbness… disbelief… fear… A sense that time stands still. People have varying ways of reacting to news of this sort but there is never an easy way to handle something that will so alter one’s whole existence.

If this is your situation, you may be wondering how the rest of the world can just go on with its business…how will you ever again go naively along with the flow of things? Illness commandeers one’s whole focus at first. There are so many questions and things to attend to, a future filled with uncertainty and possibly pain. Who do you turn to? Who do you trust? There are few times in our lives when we feel as vulnerable as this—while needing to find inner strength and resources that we may not even yet know we possess.

It is vital to have contact with others.  Certainly you will need to find a good medical team that you trust. But you also need others you can turn to for help and support. For many, this feels very natural. But for some, it can be a very difficult challenge—particularly if they have been the sort of people who either feel best taking care of others or perhaps in some way have viewed asking for assistance as a sign of weakness.

In general, the course of an illness is greatly eased—some even believe with improved odds of recovery—when people have a loving support group of friends or family. If you find yourself in this position, it will help to be able to tell people exactly what you need.  This is yet again something that many people find difficult. Some feel it is an imposition to tell helping others what specific things need to be done. However, this is not a time to be shy.

Usually people want to be helpful, but unless they know precisely what is needed, their efforts to help might be hurtful instead. Trying to handle attention that is stressful rather than supportive can wind up making everyone feel badly.  In the process of letting others into your life in this way, relationships can be formed, existing ones can deepen, and meaningful moments can occur. Don’t hesitate to turn to people you think can help you, but remember also to tell them exactly what you need. If ever there was a time to be honest, this is it!

If the stress of coping with an illness becomes more than you can handle with the support of friends and family, perhaps you may find it helpful to discuss your concerns with a professional. Psychotherapy can be helpful when faced with challenges of this kind.

Kathi Whitten  Copyright  2005