I had depression and anxiety long before I ever had my chronic illnesses. There’s something about constant, sometimes excruciating pain that can make those things a whole lot worse.
I do my best not to burden other people with my problems. I try to listen to theirs and help out when I can. When people ask me how I am, my smile falls into place instantly and I try to tone down whatever my real answer might be. The truth is that I’ve just gotten really good at smiling. I don’t like to make other people uncomfortable. I take note of who isn’t bothered when I talk about my pain and depression and I’m glad to have friends that check up on me when I go missing for long stretches of time.
Most of the time, I’m just curled up in a ball in bed in pain. I try not to be seen too much when it’s too hard to keep my smile in place, when every step hurts so bad that I don’t want to move, when the tiniest stresses can leave me in a heap of tears.
These are the moments that I don’t show to the world.
Instead, I smile, I say I’m fine and try to ignore the fact that my entire body is in pain. I work hard to focus on conversations and try to keep up with a social outing every now and then. Most of the time, I can manage. On my good days when the pain isn’t too bad, I can get a lot of things done but I pay for it later.
More recently, all of my illnesses seemed to flare up at the same exact time. Everything from Pemphigus on my scalp to my Eczema spreading from just my hands to random places all over my body. I knew that I was stressed, but I didn’t know how to stop. I wanted to be there for everyone, I wanted to be at every family get together that I could. I wanted to spend more time just doing things instead of being sick. So I ignored all the warning signs, even the signs of me slipping into a very deep depression.
I had to go back to taking baths every day just to get rid of the stiffness in my body enough that I could move. I was crying at least once a day and as I often do when things get worse, started to mourn the person that I used to be. I never let myself properly feel all the emotions and though I haven’t given up on one day reversing my health issues, I also had to start dealing with the fact that at best, I might just learn to manage my pain.
My mind became the darkest part of it all, I was flooded with a constant barrage of suicidal thoughts and in my darker moments, actually went into planning how I would do it. I couldn’t imagine day after day of this pain, but somehow I kept waking up the next day. Not “thankful to have another day”, but disappointed that I had lived through another night.
I knew that I had to do something, but not the doctors this time. I’m just too weary of going to doctors being told to try something and come back in 6 months while dealing with the daily pain on my own. Generally, I would be worse off than when I start the new medications. Instead, I turned to health and nutrition books. I knew that I had stumbled on something with supplements and the imbalances in my body. I’ve started tweaking my supplements and over time I slowly noticed the suicidal thoughts starting to fade away.
The pain is still bad, but I’ve once again improved my sleep after sleeping very poorly for the past 8 months. I’ve also written out some positive affirmations to say upon waking and have taken to doing some type of exercise daily. As far as doing my best to control the amount of stress in my life, I’ve had to limit myself and not go to everything just because. I now protect myself, from overdoing it, from people, and from myself.
I’m very blessed to have people who care enough to check up on me and talk me down from the ledge when I need it. And though I’m not completely out of the dark spot yet, I’m getting there. When I woke up today, I wasn’t disappointed to be alive. I was happy enough to be here, pain, weakened body and all. To sit here in the trenches with all the other chronic illness/pain warriors and just to say, if you need to talk to anyone, I’m here.
If you need to get help, get it.
If you need to practice self-care, do it.
It’s your life and you’ve only got one, whether you’re healthy or chronically ill you’re going to have your own battles to face and it’s up to you how you survive them, just do survive them.
I’d like to include a song that helped me a bit as I went through everything, it’s okay to let yourself feel, especially if you’ve been hiding behind a smile just like me.