Help Yourself

How to help yourself

Friends at school.

There are many chronic illnesses described on this site and elsewhere. But they all have one common thread running through them:  Each involves a person. A young person who has a chronic illness might feel angry or upset with that illness, and the it affects every aspect of life. Others simply "get used to" the illness, and they realize that it does not change the person they are. It is healthier to avoid anger and bitterness. There are many ways to learn to deal with adversity, including those outlined below.

1. Draw a picture of your illness

This might seem to be trite or childish, but art therapy is a very useful technique to help people cope with significant life changes. The technique is very easy:

  1. Close your eyes and try to imagine what your illness would look like if it were a thing.
  2. Hold that picture in your mind.
  3. Draw what you saw. Try to be as accurate as you can, using the colors exactly as you saw them in your mind.

Please share your pictures with:

Kathy Davis, MSEd, PhD
University of Kansas Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Mail Stop 4003
Kansas City, KS 66160
Please let Dr. Davis know whether she can share your drawing with others who are dealing with similar issues. Don't forget to include your name and the name of your illness. Some of the drawings sent have been simply outstanding.

2. Make a list of all of the things that define you

Write down everything that makes you unique.

  • school, sports, hobbies, friends
  • the things you enjoy
  • the things you want to try
  • things other people notice about you, such as hair, eyes and smile
  • things that make you proud
  • things you do well
  • anything else that is important to you

Where, on that list, is your illness? Most likely, it was way down at the bottom, if it was listed at all. Remember that you are so much more than merely a diagnosis.

3. Helping each other

Friends can help.

You are becoming an expert on how to live well with a chronic illness. You are learning how to take care of yourself, how to teach others about your illness, how to deal with problems and much more. Take this opportunity to share your expertise with other young people who might be facing the same problems. Remember, you are not alone.

  1. Write a story about your experience with a chronic illness. Include as many details as you can about being diagnosed, your treatment, how to survive life in the hospital, what friends and family have done that helps, and anything else you can think of that might help another kid going through a similar experience. Please email a copy of your story to Dr. Davis. She might be able to use it to help other kids like you. Don't forget to include your first name and age.

    She can't wait to read your story!
  2. Make a list of the things that classmates, teachers, family members and others did for you that were particularly helpful. It seems that everyone is happy to see you and eager to help. Much of that help is great, but occasionally it is more than you want. It is very important that you also make a list of the things that you wish people had not done.

    Again, please share your lists with Dr. Davis. Lists like these will help people understand that, while help is appreciated, it can be overdone. Please include your first name and age. Don't worry. Your name will not be shared.