Chronic Illness and Mental Health – How Can I Manage it All

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Chronic Illness
From my experience, at least trying to is important.

First, there is no single way to manage either, or both. From my experience, at least trying to is important. And actually important for both. When my chronic illness started, I didn’t have any mental heath issues. Maybe the occasional depressive episode, but nothing out of the normal for human existence. A little PTSD that eventually went away after a sexual assault when I was 19.

The sad truth is that is the case for most of my female friends as well. But this chronic illness, that started with chronic pain and kept evolving, no, keeps evolving, lead to additional struggles. From anyone I’ve ever talked to who also has a chronic illness, in my case, an autoimmune disease, they say the same things. Depression and anxiety are the common themes. We all eventually drag ourselves into psychotherapy, because no matter how much it costs, we have to place value on our mental health.

My mental health problems, particularly anxiety, drove me “crazy,” for lack of a better term.

I was in a relationship, with someone I loved through my diagnosis and initial treatment. I actually thought a diagnosis would help me feel better. And I think it does… to a point. But dealing with pain and fatigue and all of the other nonsense that comes with it is hard, not just on your body but on your spirit. I could feel myself changing as I gave into anxiety but couldn’t stop it. Instead it was all directed toward her. I felt better when she was around, almost protected. When she left, I was alone and scared. 

I’ve never been one to have a large social circle, but at that point it was particularly small. Why I couldn’t protect myself at the time is something I had to come to terms with. I had to relearn how. And it was a long process. One that took well over a year.

To build up the confidence and self-esteem. To break away from the feeling being in pain gave me. But I’ll digress. It takes two to tango and she equally had a role in the disaster of the end of that relationship. As for my role, anxiety directed toward a person, where I was crying or angry or both. Where I couldn’t get a grip on my emotions and let them take over, constantly. I can only imagine what it was like to deal with me at that point. I don’t even want to deal with me like that again. 

The unfortunate part is that this is so common when someone has a chronic illness.

Mental health is so greatly affected. Learning to deal with that, either on our own or with help, and I highly recommend getting some help, is an important part of the recovery and/or management of our diseases. Learning self-care, talking about our issues, changing behaviours to adapt to our new situations, setting boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. This all needs to be done. Even if it’s hard. In fact, especially if it’s hard. This is something I really had to learn. I’m glad I did because I feel like I’ve been able to learn and grow, and manage my illness much more effectively. Using mindfulness and other techniques I’ve learned in therapy to actually manage my pain, not just my mental health is also so effective and powerful.

I was weak and scared circa 2016. In 2019 I am powerful and strong. I have still a chronic illness, and I still manage episodes of intense anxiety but I am not chronic pain and I am not anxiety. I am me, and I live by my motto: I am, I can, I will.

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