In my experience with patients I find two broad categories of people who live with chronic ill health (be that back pain, a life limiting condition like MS, COPD/Asthma/Diabetes whatever).
Firstly, there are people who refuse to be shaped by their illness. They remain robustly determined that the illness will live with them but they will get on with life. It has become my conviction as a result, that you can have chronic ill health, be that physical or mental and still be well.
Secondly, there are those who are defined by and shaped by their illness. Some of this is the fault of the medical profession who label people according to their illness. In my last practice, we had a great policy (especially championed by one of our amazing nurses, Irene) that we would never talk about anybody as a ‘diabetic’ or an ‘asthmatic’. Rather we talked about a person who also happens to have diabetes or asthma. We wanted to define the person not the illness. But often people end up being wrongly defined and it hugely affects the way they live.
In these conversations about reimagining health, I want to recognise that 18 million people in the UK live with a chronic condition of some sort. So, if you are one of those people, my question is this: Are you living well with your illness or is it completely defining you?