This is written for the many chronically ill people I've worked with throughout the course of my therapy practice. It's a form of tough love, with emphasis on the word "love" although it is also undeniably tough. You could call it a form of mental boot camp. It places the responsibility for the way you view your life circumstances directly on you. Your perspective on your situation is more important than how dire that situation is. And when you think about it, what's your alternative? If your situation is serious enough to warrant fear and anxiety, can you really afford to be steeped in those debilitating emotions while you're attempting to deal with the issue? That's like trying to move forward while being tethered. You are the only one who can make the decision to let your emotions overwhelm you---or not. They have no power without your agreement. That in fact is the only, but major, control we have in all walks of life: our attitude toward it. No matter how disempowered you may feel, you and you alone have the choice to open or close the door on negative thoughts and feelings. And it's not easy, obviously, or we'd all be in a state of harmony and bliss all the time. This is the boot camp part: it takes courage and discipline to take charge of your thought patterns. This is particularly true if you have spent your life "waiting for the other shoe to drop" and now it has. Or if there is a family history of passivity. Or low-grade depression (clinical depression is another, more serious matter and is outside this discussion). None of us really wants to undergo a massive rearrangement of our world view when we're ill and fatigued, and yet, again, what is your option? Going down the drain with your emotions is certainly one choice, but you wouldn't be reading this if that's what you want. Instead, can you find even a flicker of desire to look at certain aspects of your life with joy and appreciation? If so, that's a huge first step. And then reach out. Read books that delight you, maybe books you read when you were a child. Watch movies that make you laugh, hopefully out loud. Norman Cousins was right: laughter is the best medicine; science now shows how it kicks your endorphins into high gear. Talk to friends who have a positive outlook on life, and move away from those who don't. There's an old adage that misery loves company, but in fact, with the exception of a few seriously pathological cases, misery is looking for a way out. Very few people have a death wish. Instead, the self-preservation instinct is dominant for the vast majority of humanity. Rely on it, and expect your life going forward to have your fair share of joy, creativity and love. That alone will help open the door for you to experience the quality of life you want.
And exactly what does "quality of life" mean? Is it the freedom to do what you want, when you want? To eat whatever appeals to you? The ability to function without fatigue or pain? Decide what makes life worthwhile, and even extraordinary, for you, and then put all your focus on it. Imagine it; visualize it. Pull up memories of it and dreams of the future when you'll experience it. One of the good things we know about the brain's limitations is that it can't hold more than one thought simultaneously---it can barely handle more than one activity simultaneously. Research has shown that people who multitask do in fact accomplish multiple activities, but none of them well. So the good news is that you can't think about being happy and miserable at the same time. Take advantage of this and learn to switch your thinking in the direction that benefits you. The above suggestions of positive books, friends, movies, are a start. You need to give your brain a new habit. Some studies have suggested that we can make---or break---a habit within twenty-one days. That research has been refuted, then substantiated, then refuted again. Really, it doesn't matter. The more you repeat something, anything, the sooner it becomes habitual. If you give yourself even one day surrounded by positivity, you will feel better. Do it again, then again, and you begin to build it into a habit. Feeling better is front and center for you right now; it's what jolts your immune system into high action. And it's what "quality of life" is all about.