You have just been diagnosed with a debilitating or life-threatening illness and you’re scared. Will you suffer protracted, intense pain? Will you be able to live an independent life? Will you face an early death, and if so, could you come to terms with that? Will your loved ones be there for you? Who will look after your family if you cannot? Can you afford the medical care, especially if you must stop working?
These are some of the many questions, some answerable, some not, that may be upsetting you. It wouldn’t be surprising if you felt overwhelmed by the uncertainty of your situation, and the fear of losing control over your life. It might be a terribly lonely feeling.
But even if you have a good support system of well-meaning family and friends, you might consider connecting with a mental health practitioner. That’s because you can benefit from confiding in someone whose profession is helping people through life’s most difficult predicaments.
You would be interacting with a detached but compassionate therapist or counselor, who can appreciate your feelings while also maintaining some objectivity about your situation; who can approach sensitive topics without flinching; who is trained to help you cope with pain and fear, as well as issues relating to the practical aspects of life
Other advantages of meeting with a professional: You can talk about certain feelings and concerns that you might not want to share with friends and family; you wouldn’t have to worry any longer that you are burdening them with your problems.
As your therapist, I would engage you in candid talk about your hopes and your fears. But so-called “talk therapy” is just one of the ways I could help you. I would also teach you “mindfulness” practices to help you manage your fear, and physical and emotional pain. “Mindfulness” works by empowering you to live with what you cannot control in your body, your mind and in your life circumstances.
You may be one of the many seriously ill individuals who are pro-actively participating in decisions regarding their care. If so, you likely will have educated yourself with regard to your symptoms and illness. But chances are that you still are having difficulty giving helpful attention to the mental and emotional side of your story.
The techniques of psychotherapy can help you create your own approach to better coping with your illness. Along the way, you’ll find you are experiencing a deeper insight into your life and into living. You can learn that it is possible to find a significant measure of peace within an environment of illness and uncertainty.