Living With Chronic Illness and Mental illness – Which came first?
If you struggle with chronic illness and mental health issues, I am sure you have had several disagreements with family, friends and medical professionals about which illness occurred first and possibly caused the other. It is something that I often think about because I wonder at times what I could have done to prevent them from ever occurring and progressing over time. Most medical professionals typically blame the physical symptoms on the mental health symptoms and most patients say the opposite. It is hard to explain what your mind goes through when you are fatigued, swollen, achey, stiff, nauseous, numb, and lightheaded every morning and are expected to take on the normal adulting duties as if you are living your best life and should be grateful each day for it.
If someone out there does have chronic illness and zero mental health issues, I applaud you and think you deserve a trophy, as well as cash and prizes. Chronic illness is a battle that I never would have expected nor would I wish on my worst enemy. How does someone go from worrying about “where should I go out Friday night” to “how do I get myself from the couch to my bed without any pain or vomiting?” Chronic illness gives you the gift of a permanent hangover without the alcohol and/or staying up too late. Spending thousands of dollars on medication, vitamins, doctors, tests, acupuncture, massages, therapy, adjustments, crystals/oils, psychics, you name it… to try to feel even slightly better than you currently do. All of this, usually to just be disappointed, broke and you still don’t feel well.
If I had a dime for everyone that has asked, “are you feeling any better yet?” I would own most of North America. It doesn’t feel good to be “the sick one”, so lying about your situation is just easier at times. When I hear all of my symptoms out loud, I cringe too. How many times do we say, “I am fine” and not really mean it?
So, do I believe chronic illness gave birth to my mental health symptoms? Yes, I do believe it did. Being able to cure one without the other has been nearly impossible but I try to work on it daily. Knowing that you are trying something new “that might help” keeps the hope alive that “maybe I WILL feel better one day”. All I know is that you can’t ever lose hope. I might feel like my body is going to give out and my spine is going to implode but I am going to dress it up, prop it up and wait for the day that I can worry again about where I am going out on Friday night again.
So my friends, own your illness, so that it does not own you. Utilize coping skills and mini solutions that help to decrease your symptoms until there is a cure or a diagnosis. Talk about how you are feeling to someone that you know actually cares about you. If you can’t find someone, there are plenty of self-help groups online that have helped me to find “my people” that understand my illness. Do not give up and love yourself each day no matter how you feel or look. You are not alone and someone out there needs to hear your story to help them heal as well.