What Does Managing Your Illness Really Mean?

Despite the fact that I have had stomach problems (IBS, gastritis, ulcers) and mental illness issues (bi-polar disorder, severe anxiety and clinical depression), I did not seek medical help for ANY of these conditions until I was 38 years old. Why? I thought I could get through it on my own, I didn’t want to pay for the appointments/medication, I was scared what I might find out, I didn’t have time…you know what I’m saying. Following my divorce the combination of increasing stomach pain and fraying mental health forced me to say…enough. I must seek professional health for all of it…otherwise, I’m not sure I’m going to make it. My thoughts today are for those who are not quite sure about what ‘managing’ illness entails. I have read a lot of comments on IrritableBowelSyndrome.net and have found it interesting how many people struggle with the idea of illness ‘management.’

What is illness management?

I had no idea what illness ‘management’ was until I ended up in the hospital. There is a school of thought that says that medical treatment has changed over the years, from something called the ‘medical model’ to the ‘transformation model’ (this can also be called the social model and several other terms). The difference is that the medical model’s intent was to simply get you functional…get you back on your feet with medication and a few kind words (maybe) and get you back out to your life. The ‘transformation model’ is based on a holistic approach of all of the person’s needs while suffering with illness. This is where the management piece comes in. Almost every doctor, therapist, psychiatrist and dietician used this word ‘management.’ How many things can you think of that are directly related by your illness? Well, your body, your mind, your family, your finances, medication, which doctors to choose, your self esteem and on and on and on. This requires management and organization. All of these things are important to your wellbeing and ultimately; your happiness. Each part of your life needs to be addressed and with everything we deal with struggling with IBS and it’s associated illnesses, there is an awful lot of work to be done.

Some may say, does it have to be that complicated?  No, it can be as complicated and as detailed as you are comfortable with. I will say again that I am so impressed with the amount of knowledge, work, resilience and inner strength that so many people with IBS display. I cannot claim to know as much about the illness or how to manage it as many others on this site. What I do know through struggling with several illnesses that cannot be cured with a single wonder drug, is that in order to feel better you really should consider taking a good look at what you need, not just specific to the IBS, but as you, the whole person. Take it one step at a time, one thought at a time, one action at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself, you come first. But, you may find yourself feeling an awful lot better with a little bit of experimentation, research and effort.

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