Dealing with feelings about your illness

This section discusses how you can bring your own feelings into conversations.

Talking about your feelings

Some people don’t have difficulty talking about their feelings. However, most people aren't used to doing this and can feel awkward. Normally, this isn't a problem. But when something serious happens, most people find that they do want to talk about how they feel, but because they're not used to it, they feel uncomfortable. This is normal!

If you (or your listeners) have strong emotions and you don't talk about them and keep them hidden, it can make it hard to talk about any subject easily. Keeping emotions hidden has an effect on all conversation. So if you, or your listener, are feeling angry or embarrassed or very sad, your conversation will feel very difficult until one of you talks about the feeling and brings it into the open.

If you ignore the feeling, you won’t be able to concentrate on the conversation and it will be hard to listen. The moment one of you mentions the emotion: ‘I’m sorry I seem in such a bad mood today, but I’ve just been told that...’ you will suddenly find that the communication gets much easier.

Useful guidelines

  • Always try to acknowledge and accept any strong emotion. Whether it’s your own or your listener’s.
  • Always try to describe your feelings and not simply act on them. Think of the difference here: If you say, ‘I’m feeling really angry today because...’ this can start a conversation. But, if you show your anger by being sharp and irritable, it can stop the conversation instead.
  • You are entitled to feel any way you like! The way you feel is the way you feel – emotions are not right or wrong. It is only if you try to cover up any strong feeling that problems can become more difficult to solve.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the other person how much they mean to you. In our daily lives we don’t often do this. But when there is a crisis, it’s really worthwhile to tell the other person how you feel about them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you're unsure. If you don’t know how you feel, or if you don’t know what is going to happen or how you're going to cope, it's fine to say so.
  • Words are not always needed. Holding someone’s hand, hugging them or simply sitting together in silence can often mean as much, or more, than words.
  • Everybody has some regrets in their life. Don’t feel that you are not allowed to talk about any regrets you feel. More than any other emotion, regret can be reduced when it is shared. This may even strengthen the bond between you and the people close to you.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies include things like relaxation, visualisation or meditation. They can help some people to cope with their illness and can help to give a feeling of being in control. Some hospitals, hospices and drop-in centres offer complementary therapies as part of their services for certain illnesses. Someone involved in your care will be able to find out what is available in your area.

Our section on emotional effects gives information about the different types of complementary therapies and has advice on how to find a reputable therapist.

Keeping a diary

Some people find it helpful to keep a diary, where they can write down all their thoughts, feelings and frustrations. Some people also write down their feelings about any good or positive things that happen to them. Keeping a diary can help you to work through various problems. Some people find that it can give them back a sense of control and perspective and can help them to deal with emotions and difficult situations.

Condition-specific information

Further information on conditions that may be affecting you or those around you:

Support Groups

Visit the NHS inform Support Services Directory to search for local organisations that may help with the issues you are facing:

Last updated: 19 February 2015

This content was supplied by Macmillan Cancer Support.