If there is anything universally characteristic of chronic illness it is uncertainty. Simply within the parameters of medicine, this is less the case for the most of our prior encounters with physicians. Most colds, fevers, and “flus” will pass in a week or less even if untreated. There is irony in the fact that very often getting “sick,” especially in childhood, is a defense against more or worse illness later.
Adjusting to a diagnosis of chronic illness, many people go through a “bargaining” stage where they wish for a miracle cure to alter the unknown fate that awaits them. Some of us continue to search among the many cures, diets, exercises, or alternative treatments we find on the web, see on TV, or are recommended by friends.
Of course, it’s understandable that we want to seek all possible remedies and do our best to screen the useful from the unnecessary information, the positive from the despairing suggestions, it is often expensive, time consuming, and too frequently fruitless. As the veil of denial begins to lift, however, it becomes easier to determine both what is plausible and what is a struggle against.
If we begin to look at the possible courses of our illnesses with more realistic, rather than a worst case perspective, getting lost in the trap of false hope is less likely. We can be less anxious about whether our chronic illness will disappear forever or whether we are inevitably doomed. More realistically, we accept the lack of guarantee of any of life, its simple and fundamental impermanence. We determine to live, as best we can, a good and useful life, one that need not, in those respects, be bound by physical constraints