Depression and Chronic Illness

Just make sure that you survive

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.

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Fibromyalgia: Life with Unseen Pain

I was weary from all the tests, not just the tests this year to find out what the pain was this time, but all of the tests over the past 7 years. I was just tired, the doctor was dodging around it trying not to say what she thought it was but I finally asked her outright.

“What is causing all of this pain?”

“I believe it’s fibromyalgia.”

She said it so easily, like it wasn’t a major upheaval. She said it had probably been there for a very long time almost as long as the pemphigus. We had been so distracted trying to contain the pemphigus that the fibromyalgia had snuck up on me very soon afterwards.

I had a name for the pain.

I knew the name well.

I knew that myalgia was temporary, but my pain had been steadily growing worse over the years so I already felt it coming and started to research it.

I had a name for the pain, but the pain doesn’t show.

My pain is invisible, I can hide it behind a smile, a laugh, a joke. I can hide my pain behind technology. I can hide my pain in a room full of people and force myself to walk upright without flinching, but it’s hard to hide your pain from those who know you better than anyone. They carry my pain as well.

Every day, it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Every day I can barely accomplish the things I need to do to function. I have only so much energy and many things get put to the side. All I could feel was the deepest despair as my entire world shook and crumbled.

I had always held on to the thought of one day being well, it helped me through the darkest of days. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and yes I do believe there will be one day. However, I can no longer live my life as one waiting to be well. I can only structure my days very carefully and use my energy wisely, I can only enjoy the moment, each second a precious gift. I don’t have to pretend to be okay anymore.

Maybe you know someone with chronic pain, or maybe you can’t even see their pain because, like me, they have become skilled at hiding it from others. If you take the time to look into their eyes and see the unseen pain. If you can take the time to listen to their struggles and hold them gently, that does much more than a temporary pain medication because it gives us the strength to carry on.

Through all the darkness and struggles of pushing myself to be able to overcome it and live my life in spite of the pain, another book idea starting to grow inside of me and while I’m doing NaNoWriMo I would like to share the story with all of you. You can follow along at WattPad using this link:

The Phantoms

The Phantoms cover

Deeper Still

You are never alone

The past few weeks have been traumatic to say the least. I’ve still been recovering from the blow that this may be my reality for the rest of my life. I’ve always clung to the thought of being better one day, somehow. Once that slipped away from me, I wasn’t sure what to do and my depression came back in waves.

The gripping truth of the matter settled heavily on my mind, my pain went from bad to worse and I couldn’t even write for a while. I asked my physical therapist about it and she gave me a few things to help strengthen my hands, but with how rainy it’s been my pain has just gone into overdrive. They said it’s normal for pain like mine.

Some days I feel like I don’t understand, it seems like as soon as I conquer one part of living with chronic pain and illness something else comes that totally throws me for a spin.

Being unable to write for the short amount of time left me alone with my thoughts (when I wasn’t going vegetable mode watching Netflix) and I realized it is the way we grow. We struggle with the storm and as I talked about in a previous post, sometimes we may even learn to keep our eyes on Jesus and walk on water.

The trials of the world seemed like they were finally underneath me and I had a grip on a much larger reality than myself. But the storm got bigger and I felt God pulling me further and further out to sea, away from all my safety nets. Even writing was unavailable to me for a while, I had no way to vent my emotions and I fell. Drowning in the sea of troubles.

I couldn’t find myself.

All I saw was darkness and despair, all I felt was that my hope was ridiculous and I drowned. It was as though I had cracked but couldn’t repair myself this time, but slowly, surely over the past few weeks I felt Jesus reaching out his hand and I finally took it. Pulling me above my thoughts, above my pain, above my frustrations and now I take a tentative step forward.

I’m not used to being a water walker and I’m sure with the next big disappointment that comes my way, I may forget who I am and start to drown again. But I also know, when you feel like absolutely nobody else in the world feels precisely how you do at this moment, you are never alone. He’s always walking with us, guiding us and comforting us.

Taking us deeper still, to painful, yet beautiful, places we have never been before.

Here’s a song that resonated with me while I was going through:

Overcoming Depression

Mini me overcomes depression!
Mini me overcomes depression!

For most of my life I have struggled with depression. Recently I’ve been able to talk about it more. Long before the pemphigus even came, I was depressed and attempted suicide several times. So you can imagine afterwards it definitely lingered around. The thing about depression is that often it can be a very silent sneaky thing. There were friends I found who struggled with it silently, just as I did. But on the outside we always put on a good show around people. Suppressing your emotions is probably one of the worst things that you can do.

I can honestly say now, that this is the freest I have ever been from depression. I am ridiculously happy and have been for quite some time now! I thought the things I learned during Re:Write would wear off eventually, but every time I forget what I learned, overcome by life or emotions. I pause, I think about all that I have to be grateful for and I pray. My circumstances have not changed and honestly I’m still in the same place I was in before, but I’ve changed. And that is all the difference.

I know when you’re depressed you can get tired of being told to “think positive” but really that was the turning point for me. Just as I realized my own beauty by telling myself every day that I was beautiful, which is another story! By thinking positive every day even when the negative thoughts bombarded my mind, I was able to rise above them. My thoughts have always been my biggest weakness, I am my worst critic. I see everything that I do wrong and magnify it by 100%. In my mind, I am insecure and afraid. I could not mold myself into perfection, I always did something wrong and I punished myself in my mind.

I still have to battle that sometimes, however now when a negative thought comes, I do not feed it, I starve it. I don’t even give it a second thought, because I know once I start to dwell on it, it will settle in my spirit and slowly take over until I believe the lie. Then the lie becomes truth and I slip down the slippery abyss of depression, once you fall in it’s a lot harder to get out then if you just avoid the falling in in the first place.

So when the negative thoughts come or if you start to feel a bit down, grab a trusted friend and tell them about what’s going on and release everything. Don’t leave anything in your mind to quietly whisper lies to you. Talk to God about it, I know it sounds crazy but he’s listening to you too. Because I was ashamed of being a Christian and depressed, God was the last person I wanted to talk to about my emotions. But also the best person because it is always through his joy that I find true joy. Happiness is fleeting and passing, it changes depending on what circumstances you are in, joy is the one that will stick around! When you find your way to who you are, to truly who you are, sons and daughters of an amazing Father who only has your best at heart? There is nothing for you to be anxious about anymore, all you need to do is pray.

If you do need professional help as well, I encourage you to seek it out. I learned about art therapy in school and I just became my own therapist through art. I worked through many issues and expanded it to poetry, at the time my poetry was very dark. But it pulled the darkness from inside of me and put it on paper. Find a healthy way of release, be it writing or art and let everything out. See the pattern here? Never hold the dark negative thoughts inside, always find a way to release them somehow.

Don’t feel alone. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. Don’t let that lie settle in your mind, people do care and other people may be going through exactly what you’re going through. Speak up about it, it really is okay if you’re not okay. If you need to vent a while, that’s okay. If you need to cry a while, that’s okay too. I still allow myself to cry when I need to, I cannot stress enough how much releasing everything helped me to find freedom. And if you don’t have anyone close to talk to, be sure to talk to God! Or get in touch with me, I’m more than happy to listen.

Overall, find things that you enjoy doing and do them. Make time out for yourself and relax. And when you feel yourself starting to become stressed, handle it, breathe. Don’t let it build up inside of you. You are loved, you are wonderful just the way that you are.