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Can I be healthy with a chronic disease?

Remember that moment, sitting in the doctor’s office and getting the results. It is scary and there are a lot of unknowns, but you also feel relieved. You have a name now. A name of the thing that has made your body and your mind feel like a stranger.

Now what? This thing is never going to leave. How can you possibly be healthy with a chronic disease? If you have a disease, doesn’t that mean, by definition, that you can’t be healthy? How can you live a good life with a chronic disease?

And for that reason, I’d rather use the phrase “chronic health condition”. To me, it allows for more possibility. It is easier to see health and the good life when thinking of a chronic health condition than when thinking of disease. 1

What a chronic health condition doesn’t change

Life is a rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs. Having a chronic health condition doesn’t change that. There will be challenges and there will be triumphs. There will be blind corners where you don’t know what is coming next.

But you can still be healthy. You can still live the good life. The definition of the good life might change for you, but it was going to evolve as you moved through life anyway. A chronic health condition is another layer. It can make life more complex. And you can live the good life.

We each have our own story

Before we get any further, I want you to know that I am speaking from experience. Recently, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. And that has thrown me for a loop.

I’ve been working through the emotional reality of having this chronic health condition. But in my training and work as a dietitian, I know that health is more than physical. I know that a person can still be healthy even with a chronic health condition. Today, I’d like to share what that means with you.

You can live the good life

The good life is open to you. Full stop. No matter what health conditions you have. No matter what lays in your past. You can still seek health and the good life. Everything on this website still applies to you. Getting enough sleep and rest, eating well, being active, connecting with friends and family, as well as personal growth and mindset. It all applies.

Of course, you may also have additional considerations. If you have celiac disease, you’ll need to avoid gluten-containing grains. If you have diabetes, you’ll need to manage your blood sugar.

You may need to take medications. You may need to rest more often. You’ll need to see your health care team more often.

It is a chronic health condition because there is no cure. We can manage it. We can give ourselves extra compassion on the tough days, and savour the easier days.

If you’re still feeling disbelief that you can be healthy and live the good life with your chronic disease, that’s okay. It takes time to adjust, and you may have to rumble2 with it long after you feel that you should be passed that already. In those moments, can you bring some curiosity?

What you can do

Have curiosity about what this diagnosis means. What do you need to do to manage it? Are there things that you’ll have to do differently? Has it caused your priorities to shift in some way? It can be helpful to take some time to journal or to consider your values.

Can you bring some compassion to this moment? Especially in the moments that you can’t see how you could do the things you once did easily, bring some compassion. Remember that life is constantly changing, constantly evolving. That is the beauty and the pain of life.

Do you need some help at this moment? It could be as simple as reaching out to a friend or family member. Perhaps a support group of other people with your condition would help. And of course, your health care team can help.

Bottom line

No one ever said that seeking to live the good life was going to be easy. Just that it is worth it.

Eat well, move often, rest when you must, get enough sleep and rest, connect with people, allow personal growth, and keep a curious, compassionate mindset.

Each of these ideas is simple, but not easy. It is easy to overlook the basic foundations of the good life. But when we come back to the basics, it is possible to live the good life, even with a chronic health condition.

Until next time, be good.3

You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.

If this interests you, join the newsletter to be the first to know about updates, new articles, and to try out tools as they are developed and improved. I hope to connect with you soon.

  1. Perhaps I’m the only who thinks this, but since this is my website, I get to make that call.
  2. This phrase comes from Brene Brown’s work.I recently finished reading Rising Strong. It is one of those books that you either connect to or you don’t. If you’re curious, I’d recommend checking out her TED talks.
  3. I was a teenager when I first remember my mom saying, “Be good,” when I left the house. When I left for university, and to this day, she ends most of our conversations in the same way.
    Yes, she meant, ‘I love you’ and ‘stay out of trouble.’ But she also meant, ‘do what’s right.’ Follow what you know to be true for you. Learn from life and how to do things better.
    Now that I’m trying to understand and evolve my philosophy of life; Now that I’m trying to help other people strive toward living the good life; I want to share that phrase, “Be good,” with you. Be good. Live the good life in whatever way you define that for yourself.

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