I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts that often it feels like I’m organising my illness, or rather that I have to organise my life around my illness.
Life is busy enough without the added complication of hospital appointments, tests, drug infusions and surgeries.
What I sometimes forget is the toll that having a physical, long-term illness can have on your mental health. And make no mistake – it does have an effect. Unfortunately, when you have a physical illness that’s all your doctor really wants to deal with. And when you already spend so much time in hospitals you don’t want to go making more appointments on top of that for your mental health. (But you really should, so please do.)
So you live with it, and every now and then it catches up with you. The anxiety of it all, the constant stress. The worry that you’re doing enough or being enough, the fear that one day you’ll get worse, or perhaps that you’ll never get better.
I can only speak from my own experience, of course, and I don’t want to undermine anyone else’s.
Living with Crohns didn’t just mean weight and stomach problems, when I was underweight and malnourished everything else was effected too. I got tired, I got low, and I got other pains as well. When one part of your body is failing, it’s inevitable that other parts of your body will feel the strain too, and unfortunately that includes the mind.
When I was really ill, I was the lowest I’ve ever been. So it’s no surprise that when my surgery improved my physical health, my mental health improved as well. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but it was for me. I am a much happier person for my surgery, and I’m grateful.
But that doesn’t mean that the anxiety went away. It doesn’t mean that I’m the same person I was before my illness began-(I doubt I’ll ever be that person again, and that’s okay.) What it means is I now live as a person with constant lists in their head, a continuous streams of things I want and need to get done, preferably in the short periods of times between flares and drug treatments.
And that’s stressful.
And to be completely honest, I haven’t yet fully discovered how to cope with this new aspect of my life. I’ve not yet mastered the balancing act of maintaining a social life with my family, friends and husband. Of working while dealing with all my various hospital appointments and tests. Of studying and trying to write a book. Of taking time out for myself to simply rest.
There are so many things I want to do and sometimes it feels as though I’m running out of time to do them in.
All I know is that I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long while, despite my constant list-making and neurosis.
So, here’s my advice. Be open with yourself about how your feeling, write lists if you have to, just so you get it out of your head and onto the page. Start a journal, (this has helped me no end) and when you’re feeling down write down five things in that journal that bring joy to your life. And TALK. Talk to your friends and your family, and know that you’re not alone.
Make an appointment with your GP, it may not be what you want but it could be what you need.
Most importantly, know that it’s okay to be sad sometimes, because life isn’t fair and you don’t deserve this. But just because life isn’t fair, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be beautiful.
Best wishes, sweet things. x