Living with a chronic illness is something that in its self can be very difficult. You have the pain, the endless doctor appointments, and at times the isolation. There are many chronic illnesses and they all manifest themselves in many different ways. Finding the right solution to live a better quality of life can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. As someone that has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia, I understand the difficulties that a chronic illness presents. But what happens when your condition begins to affect your mental health?
Why chronic illness may lead to mental health issues
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one third of people with a chronic illness will experience depression. So why is that?
Many of the chronic illnesses cause pain and discomfort. This can cause irritation and change in mood. My fibromyalgia can get to me at times. Specially when my hand joints hurt. I need them to work so when they hurt I can’t work. Constant pain is not only hurtful but it messes with your mood. It gets you agitated, frustrated, and sad. Pain can lead to feeling hopeless and if the pain is left unattended it can definitely lead to depression.
When someone gets a chronic illness the physical limitation can be frustrating. It’s not easy to be able to do half of the things you use to. I think we have all been there, when you get invited to anything and you are too tiered or in too much pain. Your physical limitations can make you angry, frustrated, and can make you feel useless
Comparison can be very toxic for anyone! But when you have a chronic illness it can really affect you at a whole different level. You begin to not only compare yourself to others but you begin to compare yourself to who you were before your diagnosis. This despair of not being able to do things you use to. This feeling of having something so close but so far away. You know you are capable of dancing, jumping, running, playing because you have done it before but your body is so far from that now. It can really bring feelings of anxiety, and depression.
Comparison and how that makes you feel can lead to isolation. You already isolate from friends because of physical limitation, comparison takes it to another level. Isolation I think can be so toxic because you begin to have a misconstrue version of the world and yourself. Feelings of hopelessness can become intensified.
Chronic is such a scary thing to hear. This notion that you will have your condition for life it almost feels like a life sentence. The uncertainty of what this means for your future can leave you feeling lost. It can leave you feeling powerless.
The two things we can’t ignore are these. One, mental health and the symptoms of chronic illness can be similar. It is all on how you feel. When you have both you must address them as individual issues even if one triggered the other. Two, unattended chronic illness or mental health can be very serious and has the potential to begin a cycle of stress because your in pain and that resulting into more intensified pain. This can leave a big heavy emotion of hopelessness.
However, this does not have to be you. There is so much life ahead of you even with a chronic illness. I love a quote that says,
“ Hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness”
You too can see the light. But you must speak up first that you are in the dark. Don’t live with this alone. The following are 5 things that helped me get passed the feeling of hopelessness when it came to my chronic illness.
5 things you can do to help your mental health when having a chronic illness
1. It all starts with health
Make sure your blood work, test, and medication are up to date. Take your time with finding the right doctor. He/she will be your guide from now on and you want to make sure you can trust them. I know finding the right doctor is challenging and we can tend to put it off but this is simply not an option anymore.
2. Open communication
I have said this before in my Mental heath blog and in my Intimacy with a chronic illness blog, communication is key. Speak up! Have open communication with your doctor, family, and friends. You can’t expect people to know what you are going through. Chronic illness looks so different from person to person. So is mental health issues. Now having them both it can be very challenging. But most importantly stay in communication with yourself. Be honest with yourself.
3. Change your perspective
Yes, hearing the word chronic is scary and intimidating, but it’s doesn’t have to mean a death sentence. There is a beautiful word you need to start thinking about. Remission! Once I realized that I can live a good life even with my chronic illnesses, that’s what moves me. That’s what makes me feel hopeful. You can too.
Make sure you rest. This is one of the best advices I have received. I have always been a workaholic and when I got diagnosed I tried to prove nothing was going to stop me, so what did I do? I worked twice as much. That lead to me getting worse and intensifying my pain, which lead to me feeling physically limited. Which made me want to compare myself to the old me, that lead me to isolate and feel hopeless. You see that vicious cycle? Rest!
5. Find support!
Find people going through the same thing. This can help you confide with people you know understand. They can give you tips on what has helped them. And you can listen to experiences of others so you can feel less alone. I love the mighties
It’s an app for support. You can read stories and tell your story. They have tips and things that can help. There are lots of amazing Instagram accounts I love. Find accounts that talk about mental heath. Latinxtherapy focuses on latinas and mental health. There are those that focus on the chronic illness. Set yourself up with the best support system. There is of course my account @Lupita_betteryouspace I talk about positivity, mental heath and I open up about my condition.
Pick a platform, a support group, or a therapist but don’t stay silent. You don’t have to do this alone. Remember, you can do this!
You are not alone, 5 celebrities that deal with both Chronic illness and Mental health.
Written by: Lupita G.