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What books are good for people with chronic illness?

Chronic illnesses are difficult to manage. People often report being bounced from consultant to consultant, hospital to hospital, and still end up without resolution.

Unfortunately, many chronic conditions are likely to be lifelong companions with the person experiencing them. That can be frustrating, and can result in a feeling of utter hopelessness.

As a health psychologist I regularly work with people with chronic illness and chronic conditions. Many have spent an absolute fortune on supplements, new diets, complimentary therapies, courses, etc. All with the aim of trying to recover.

Obviously, why wouldn’t someone want to recover from any illness? Yet some are with us.

Myself, I have a long-term health condition in the form of a degenerative retinal condition. Mine is only going to get worse and no amount of supplementation will really make a difference. Positive health behaviours, such as exercise and a diet including a naturally colourful dose of fruit and veg can support the system and may mitigate and speeding up of the degeneration. But my condition is currently incurable.

I’m including below some links to resources that help people develop skills to deal with chronic conditions. I hope, if you’re reading this, and you are experiencing a chronic condition, that you find at least one of these a useful resource. I know that not everyone gets offered psychological support via the NHS, and many cannot afford a private psychologist to support them to adapt.

Ray Owens’ Living with the Enemy is a compassionately written self-help resource for anyone experiencing chronic illness. Drawing on acceptance, compassion, CBT, and mindfulness it can help you to navigate the stresses of chronic illness.

Russ Harris’ Happiness Trap isn’t just a book that people with chronic illness would benefit from, but possibly one that almost everyone would benefit from. Russ talks about how the strivation (yes, i made this word up!) for happiness can shine a spotlight on anything that isn’t happiness. The result is that we can really highlight suffering and overly normalise happiness as an ideal. The reality, life is a spectrum of experiences: good, less good, painful, grief-ridden, sadness, excitement, anxiety, lowness, high, and possibly happiness, mixed in with the wealth of other experiences that humans can have. By recognising that happiness and positivity can, in themselves, be problematic aims, and then learning how to live with all the other experiences that life affords us, we can learn to function better. The aim of Russ’ book is to help people to identify what is important in life and to do more of what is important, no matter what life throws at us.

A highly recommended book that has helped hundreds of thousands across the globe already.

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