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Staying Positive With Chronic Illness

positivity-chronic-illness Wow. Ok. This is quite a topic.

With the constant ups, downs and curve balls that our bodies can throw at us, finding ways to stay positive and get on with life as best as we can is one of the most important things someone with a chronic illness can do.

When and how you’re ready to do this depends entirely on the person, and you are the only one who knows when that will be. And you know what? It’s ok to feel what you feel when you feel it.

I know that so well, and it has taken me nearly two decades (sheesh) of living with health problems to finally come to a balance of how to keep myself positive (most of the time) against really difficult odds. 

For today’s post I decided to ask one of my favourite bloggers, Meg from Meg Says to share her top tips for staying positive with chronic illness. So over to you, Meg!


Where many other bloggers may be most frequently asked “which lipstick are you wearing?”, I’m asked “how do you stay positive with your chronic illness?” It’s a question that I get on a daily basis and it’s not always an easy one to answer, but you know what – I’m going to give it my best shot! I’m Meg from Meg Says, I’m twenty-one and I’ve been of a sufferer (or a survivor!) of the neuroimmune illness ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) since my early teens. I’m a British blogger and vlogger who talks about beauty, style, health and living a happy life, which brings me to our subject today; how do you stay happy when your days are controlled by an illness?

In my classic ‘Meg Says’ format, I’m going to offer some adjectives and explain how they’ve helped me to cope and keep a smile on my face in the face of chronic illness – and I really hope that they’ll help you, too.

 Accept what’s happened

If, like me, you can remember a time when life was ‘normal’ and you didn’t have to think about hospitals or pacing or medication, it feels extremely strange to go from being an active person to a disabled person. That moment for me was when I became too unwell to stay at university and had to go on medical leave from my degree. It seemed like one moment I was living in a city far away from home with new people, studying and enjoying youth and the next I was trapped in a body that didn’t function properly, unable to even sit up in bed. It took a long time to be able to accept that, but eventually I did – and the anger at what had happened to me became one less thing I had to worry about. With ME, the more you ‘push’ the more you’ll suffer and it’s an illness that absolutely needs to be fought mentally not physically – and the sooner I realised that, the better. Accepting your diagnosis isn’t always the easiest of things however, so if you’re not ready to accept just yet…

Adjust to your limitations

Adjusting is one of the best things you can do, for both your body and your mind. Personally, it was the realisation that I wasn’t defined by what I could no longer do that truly helped me. It meant that I was looking forward instead of backwards – I quit pining after what I used to be able to do and focused on what I could do at present. I stopped thinking “I’m not doing my degree, I’m useless” or “I’ve had to move back home, I’ve lost my independence” and started thinking “I can now read a few lines of a book per day” and eventually “I just washed my hair by myself for the first time in forever”. Things weren’t the way they used to be and I would wish for the ‘old days’ before Meg became MEg – see what I did there, hey! – but it only made me feel worse, and adjusting to my body’s new needs helped to counteract that loss.

Recognise progress, even the tiniest of baby steps

I say “baby steps” because that’s often what progress means with chronic illnesses – it’s a long and slow journey that would be a cha-cha if it were a dance thanks to all of the steps backwards and then forwards that you’ll take along the way. One tip is to celebrate those tiny improvements – and I genuinely mean with a candle in a cupcake if that’s your thing – as we’re not miraculously going to wake up one day magically ‘cured’, but you made yourself a cup of tea on your own for the first time in a year? Heck yes! Celebrate it. You couldn’t do that at one point, and now you can. My friend Hayley (from Hayley-Eszti) and I go crazy with the party emojis every time one of us manages to leave the house, and my grandparents send “we heard you managed to sleep for a full night!” cards. I know how it feels to be completely up to your eyeballs in frustration at the fact that you could do these things aged eight, but it does nothing for your positivity levels to constantly beat yourself up that you can’t do something. It’s not your fault, and you deserve to happily punch the air every time you sip a cuppa that was made for you, by you. It’s progress, and every little helps!

Practice thankfulness and gratitude

It’s easy to slip into a ‘what have I got to be grateful for?’ mindset. I’ve been there and it sucks. I don’t want to call it a ‘pity party’ as that seems a little insensitive, you’ve got a chronic illness and you have every right to be completely distraught about that. It’s not a minor problem that’ll go away if you think enough positive thoughts or something that’ll ‘blow over’. Although we chronically ill folk can’t shout our appreciation for our glowing health from the rooftops, however, what we can do is acknowledge our appreciation for the good things in life that we still have. It could be something big like “I’m ill but my family are amazingly supportive” or “I’m ill but I’ve still got a roof over my head and food to eat” or something smaller but whatever it is, know that you’re still lucky in other aspects of your life. I’m not a big fan of the whole ‘it could be worse’ thing that people like to tell you a lot, but it doesn’t hurt to count your blessings and be thankful for what you’ve got.

Embrace the bad moments

I think this is an important one. As we talked about in the introduction, people ask me all the time how I stay so positive and I might be having one of my worst days when they poise that question. I might be in anguish behind the computer screen and in hot, frustrated tears that life is like this and that there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. Everyone has ’em and it’s impossible for anyone to smile 100% of the time, so just know that you’re normal if you have those low points where you hate your illness and you’re angry at the world that it happened to you. It’s an infrequent occurrence for me, which I’m really thankful for, but when it happens I just like to embrace it and indulge in it, almost. There’s not much anyone can say to make me feel better – and sometimes you don’t even want to feel better – so I just tuck myself in, stick something good on Netflix, grab some chocolate and feel awful. It’s what I need and I always feel better once it’s over.

6) Stay hopeful and optimistic

Not as simple as it sounds and a lot easier said than done, granted, but when all else is lost, hope remains. You never expect something like chronic illness to happen to you, and when it does you’re left with nothing but answers about the future. Often those are unanswerable questions, so instead maybe we should simply look at our future with hope. I think it’s really important to bear in mind how you far you’ve come and also, what you’ve overcome. Take your age and tell yourself, “you know what? In [insert age here] years and so far, there hasn’t been anything that I haven’t overcome”. It’s simple but powerful – you’re still here, whatever has happened to you hasn’t beaten you and you’ve always gotten back up after you’ve fallen, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. Keep going, as you always have. It might be really, really hard… but you got this, y’know?

Thank you so much to the incredible Meg for this post. You can find her on her blog, YouTube, Instagram & Twitter

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If you’re in your teens or 20’s and are struggling with chronic illness, check out  my coaching services for a friendly face to talk to.


11 Comments on Staying Positive With Chronic Illness

  1. Larissa
    August 14, 2015 at 9:04 am (3 years ago)

    Fantastic :) thank you for sharing. These are many lessons I am still learning & it is so so empowering. Accepting limitations & a ‘new’ body has really helped me to heal mentally.
    Wishing you many more optimistic days ahead xx

    • Natasha Lipman
      August 14, 2015 at 9:12 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks Larissa, you too! It’s definitely a long process to accept that, and while for the most part I have, I still sometimes get those “ugh, I could be doing so much!” feelings!

      Best of luck to you too xx

  2. Lurganista
    August 18, 2015 at 8:43 pm (3 years ago)

    Fabilis article, so well written and good advise for me who’s lived with pancreatitis a long time. I am a glass half full but when I’m having pain & vomiting that is worthy of hospital I use my arsenal of pain meds, antiemetics mediation and hope for the best.
    Great post!

  3. Rebecca
    August 22, 2015 at 1:05 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing! I’m recently diagnosed with PsA and definitely struggling with the acceptance of a “new normal”. It’s hard stuff. Good to know that others can relate. Thanks, again. :)

    • Natasha Lipman
      August 24, 2015 at 9:08 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Rebecca. I hope it gets easier over time!

  4. Domando Al Lobo
    November 3, 2015 at 11:19 am (2 years ago)

    Meg you are always so sweet and realistic. I agree we need some bad days to have the good ones, we can’t stay positive 24/7. nobody cant, we have more reasons for that. Thanks for your guest post.

  5. Arpita
    September 23, 2016 at 1:36 am (1 year ago)

    I totally get it… gosh. I am hiv positive and struggling with life daily and it’s so easy to fall into that life wasnt like this trap… to be not able to do the things o loved doing such as traveling… its feel like every time I tell myself that I will fight it, something happens and I have to take steps back and it’s so frustrating.

    • DC
      March 13, 2017 at 10:38 pm (11 months ago)

      Keep strong my friend.

  6. Xeeshan Naveed
    October 31, 2016 at 10:10 pm (1 year ago)

    very informative post. thanks for sharing it.

  7. Emily Croxall
    June 1, 2017 at 12:00 am (9 months ago)

    I found your words helpful thank you. I’ve got a very rare probably genetic neurological disease for which there is no cure or treatment. Best thing for me about it is I’ve managed to make it to 67 with only a few really bad effects. My children may not be as fortunate though.


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