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Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness by Christopher Martin - Review & Discussion Questions

Finding Joy with an Invisible Chronic Illness

Proven Strategies for Discovering Happiness, Meaning, and Fulfillment

Christopher Martin

Ⓒ 2021 Martin Books

202 pages

“You are tough. You are a fighter. And there is always a silver lining in every battle you fight.”

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Book Review

Author Background

Christopher Martin is a school psychologist, author, and has several chronic illnesses himself. He uses both his professional and personal experiences to write this book and his other book “Having Nasal Surgery? Don't You Become An Empty Nose Victim!” (2007). (affiliate link).

His website can be found here.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?

Chronic illnesses can take a toll on emotional, mental, social, and physical well-being. It can severely impact quality of life and a person’s ability to function day-to-day. This book offers people who have chronic illnesses strategies for coping and improving their mental health amidst the struggles and limitations that comes with chronic illness.


· Concept explanation: Very clear

· Related stories: Few

· Data references and studies: Adequate

· Charts and graphics: Few

· Practical application: Strong

This book undoubtedly fulfills its stated goal of providing the reader with strategies to improve happiness, meaning and fulfillment while living with chronic illness. The concepts are very clear and well-written. The information is useful and easily applicable. Where the book is lacking is only in attempting to get more buy-in from the reader in Chapter 1. Many people who could benefit the most from this book are probably used to having their lives run by their chronic illness. They may feel like a victim and they may believe that this illness, especially if it is severe, has taken their lives away. For readers who for instance can no longer work, engage in their favorite hobbies, socialize as they want, etc., and have been struggling with their chronic illness for a while, changing mindsets may not feel possible or justified. A reader who feels their illness has ruined their life may not be sold on reconstructing their entire mental framework without more of an emotional argument to persuade them. Jumping straight into the content in Chapter 1 seems like a big ask for the audience.

Other than that, I really found the book to have great content, easy to read, helpful and interesting. I loved the section on grief, I thought the explanations of the different types of therapy were excellent, and the section on stress had very interesting information, not just a repeat of what we always hear. I also liked that he added the section on well-spouses and caregivers. I think the needs of those who take care of people with chronic illnesses are easily and often overlooked and this was a very important topic that he raised awareness about. Overall this book is a compilation of a lot of great info presented in a very effective manner.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Informational

· Organization: Excellent

· Flow: Excellent

The organization of this book is well done. One reason it is easy to read is because it flows really well. The tone is straightforward, informational and feels professional.

Bringing It All Together

One thing done really well: While many of the strategies presented in the book may be familiar to the reader, the author did a superb job of supplying additional information regarding these topics that is both interesting and not readily found in most self-help articles and books.

One thing that could be better: As stated previously, getting more audience buy-in on making very challenging mental shifts would make the book more effective.

One main thing I took away from this book was: You may never be able to improve your chronic illness, but you can still work on improving your mental well-being and lead a happier more fulfilled life despite your diagnoses.

Overall Recommendation

Overall recommendation: 4.5/5

Who I would recommend this book for: People who have a chronic illness and feel stuck or trapped because of it.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: For people struggling with moderate to severe depression due to a chronic illness, this book would not be an adequate replacement for therapy, nor is it intended to be.


Discussion Questions


What are some of the struggles those with chronic illness face?

What actions can change your life?

What are the 6 attributes of a chronic illness?

What must a chronically ill person devote time to that others do not have to?

What percentage of chronic illnesses are invisible and what is the consequence of this?

What do the stressors of chronic illness impact?

What percentage of chronically ill patients experience depression?

What impact does depression have on physical symptoms?

What do doctors mean when they call something “psychosomatic”?

What illnesses were once viewed as psychosomatic?

What aspect of chronic illness can we control?

What is the only way to make finding a solution possible?

What determines your well-being?

Chapter 1

What happens when we try to avoid life’s unpleasant realities?

How does our response to the feelings elicited by chronic illness affect us?

What is acceptance?

What does acceptance empower us to do?

Why can it be difficult to accept chronic illness?

What can happen once you accept your chronic illness?

What is psychological flexibility?

What six main processes does ACT include?

What is cognitive defusion?

How does ACT approach chronic pain?

What destructive negative cycle occurs when self-compassion is not present?

What does self-compassion allow for?

What are the three features of self-compassion?

What is self-kindness?

What is the goal of mindfulness?

What is reframing?

Give an example of positive reappraisal.

What is negative reappraisal?

Where does self-talk stem from?

What are the benefits of positive self-talk?

What is a good way to distance yourself from your self-talk?

List the 3 tips for stopping negative self-talk.

What is an internal locus of control?

What is the result when those with chronic illness take an external locus of control approach?

What is self-efficacy?

What is the best approach to managing chronic illness and the locus of control?

When are we most prone to overdoing it?

What are the health benefits of pacing?

What pacing strategy ensures a safe level of activity?

What is roller-coaster progress?

Chapter 2

What body system is positively impacted by positive psychological traits?

What is the definition of optimism?

What is defensive pessimism?

What is defensive pessimism associated with?

What is one way we can view suffering?

What is conscientiousness?

Why is high conscientiousness a major predictor of health?

How is laughter good for the body?

What are the physiological effects of an induced laugh?

List a couple examples of a gratitude intervention.

How are happiness and joy related?

What health benefits are correlated with happiness?

Why should we be wary of the phrase “don’t worry, be happy”?

Why is social support important for someone with a chronic illness?

What health outcomes are associated with increased spirituality and religious faith?

What is the concept of forgiveness?

What is the purpose of forgiveness?

What are the benefits of volunteering?

What are some ways you can volunteer even if you are unable to leave your home?

What are the mental health benefits of lifelong learning?

Chapter 3

What is stress?

What are the 5 types of stress?

What are the stages of general adaptation syndrome (GAS)?

What effect does mindfulness have on distractions?

What are the keys to mindfulness?

Give 2 or more examples mindfulness activities.

What is a normal resting breathing pattern?

Give 2 or more examples of breathing activities.

What exercise considerations must be made for someone with a chronic illness?

What is the benefit of engaging in nature-based activities?

What is therapeutic journaling?

What does therapeutic journaling involve?

If you do not like writing, what are other options for expressing your feelings?

How do pleasurable activities improve health?

What question can help you discover which pleasurable activities you should engage in more often?

What supplements may help manage chronic stress?

What is the benefit of simplifying our lives?

What are 3 other stress relief options?

Chapter 4

What is grief?

When should we seek professional help for grief?

What are the 5 stages of grief?

What are the 7 stages of grief adapted for chronic illness?

In what order do these stages occur?

What emotion may we feel during the “pleading, bargaining, and desperation” phase?

Why does chronic illness lead to a loss of self?

What does depression involve?

What percentage of patients improve depression with treatment?

What type of therapy is highly effective for treating depression?

What emotive behavior theory is CBT founded on?

How does CBT help patients manage goals?

What is dialectical thinking?

What are the 4 strategies of DBT?

What are 3 other therapies that are effective for treating depression?

What is the best way to seek therapy?

Chapter 5

What is social support?

What bodily systems does social support positively affect?

What are the 4 types of social support?

In what ways can chronic illness impact friendships?

What friendship opportunities can chronic illnesses provide?

List a few of the tips for making friends with a chronic illness.

What are the benefits of celebrating a friend’s success?

Why must you initiate contact with others in order to make friends?

Why may it be in your best interest to be upfront about your chronic illness when dating?

What are the benefits of online support groups?

What are the characteristics of a well-run in-person or virtual support group?

What qualities are present in a good mentor?

Chapter 6

What is the fundamental attribution error (FAE)?

Why do we commit the FAE?

When others doubt the validity of your chronic illness, why is it harmful to internalize this?

What happens when your doctor questions the severity of your health condition?

What happens when friends and family feel powerless in the face of chronic illness?

What is important to remember when others are insensitive toward you and your chronic illness?

What is the best way to set the tone when talking about your chronic illness?

List 2 or more examples of tips for educating others about your chronic illness.

What does educating your loved ones not guarantee?

When should you not inform your employer of your chronic illness?

When should you inform your employer about your needs for accommodation?

Why may it be in your best interest not to disclose your chronic illness during the hiring process?

Why is it important to have a plan B for employment?

If you are unable to work (in the United States) what steps should you take?

Why is it important to try and influence politics in regards to chronic illness and disability?

Chapter 7

What are the 3 categories supportive words fall into?

List 3 or more examples of things you can say to someone with a chronic illness.

What feelings does chronic illness often lead to?

What should you do if someone does not wish to talk about their chronic illness?

What impact do unsupportive words have on someone with a chronic illness?

List 3 or more examples of unsupportive statements that you should not say to someone with a chronic illness.

Who wins when we compare illnesses?

How can well-meaning help disempower those with a chronic illness?

List 3 or more examples of actions that someone with a chronic illness may appreciate.

What can be the result for those who care for someone with a chronic illness?

Who often takes the brunt of the chronically ill person’s emotions?

What makes gauging suffering difficult for a caregiver?

Why does the spouse often become the main caregiver for the chronically ill?

List the 7 topics a well-spouse and chronically ill spouse need to discuss.

What organization offers support for well spouses?

Chapter 8

What does solving any medical problem require?

What will a clear understating of your condition save you from?

What is the difference between self-educating and self-diagnosing?

What may cause great resistance from healthcare providers?

Why is it crucial to have an official diagnosis?

What does an official diagnosis represent?

What other factors must be considered once you have an official diagnosis?

Why can you expect receiving your diagnosis to be a team process?

What does your primary care provider act as?

What must your PCP be on board with?

Who fills out disability paperwork?

Who coordinates care between specialists?

What does a specialist offer that a PCP does not?

What is a psychiatrist?

What is a psychologist?

What is a social worker?

What is a counselor?

What questions should you ask yourself to best self-advocate?

What three things makes it much easier to access high quality healthcare?

Chapter 9

Why is it important to plan for your appointment?

What does gathering medical records entail?

How long should you plan for it to take to gather all previous medical records?

Why must you accurately write down all medications and supplements?

Why must your doctor know what you have previously tried?

Who must help facilitate communication between healthcare providers?

How much of the medical information do we remember from an appointment on average?

What is the role of a family or friend during an appointment?

What is not the role of a family or friend during an appointment?

What aspects of each symptom should you take note of?

Why is important to prepare an elevator speech for your doctor?

List the 12 appointment day “Do’s”.

What is the purpose of asking “what else could this be?”?

List 3 or more examples of appointment day “Don’ts”.

What is imperative to do after each appointment?

What should you do if you feel your doctor is not addressing your needs?

What can commonly occur between health specialists when obtaining a diagnosis?

Who holds the ultimate responsibility for our health?

When should you get a second opinion?

What type of doctor should you seek when getting a second opinion?

What is a sub-specialty?

What is a balanced approach to alternative medicine?

What three considerations should be made when seeking alternative medicine?

Chapter 10

What happens if we eat the wrong foods with a chronic illness?

What makes finding nutritional recommendations daunting?

List 2 or more tips for healthy eating.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Why may an adrenal friendly diet be good for someone with a chronic illness?

Chapter 11

What is the trick to creating change?

What should you focus your energy on when attempting to implement new strategies?

List 2 or 3 of the strategies from this book you would like to focus on moving forward.


These are words I noticed while reading that some people may be unfamiliar with. Use the workbook to customize this list for yourself.

Braggadocio: (n.). Empty boasting

Candid: (adj.) Expressing opinions and feelings in an honest and sincere way

Ceaseless: (adj.) Without end, continuous

Embroil: (v.) To throw into disorder or confusion

Inadvertent: (adj.) Unintentionally

Paramount: (adj.) Superior to all others

Posit: (v.) To propose as an explanation

Precipitate: (v.) To bring about especially abruptly

Succinct: (adj.) Marked by compact precise expression without wasted words

Discussion Question Workbook

The workbook that accompanies this post includes:

- Pre-reading questions

- Chapter discussion questions with space for writing answers

- Space to write your own summary for each chapter

- Vocabulary words with space to write definitions and add words

- Chapter reflection questions

- Final reflection questions

- A condensed list of all discussion questions and vocabulary for reference

- Reflection pages for writing extra notes and ideas

You can get an ebook or paperback copy of this workbook here.

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