Has your physical illness had any effect on your mental health? Explain.
As a mental health professional this is I think the most serious question thus far. The one that gives me pause. Has my mental health been affected by all this? The short answer is yes; how could it not?
I have encountered doctors who told me that my pain was all in my head and that there was nothing physically wrong with me. In the initial stages I started to doubt that I was actually physically ill. I started to wonder if I had Munchhausen Syndrome or was a hypochondriac. I actually considered it. My doctor reminds me on occasion that many referrals for PCS especially come from Psychiatrists because the women were convinced that something must be wrong with their brain since doctors could find nothing physically wrong.
I have had moments. days, weeks where I was down. I won’t say depressed because for me that is a diagnosis and I have not gotten to that point. However, I will say that my being down if not dealt with could eventually lead there.
I have a greater level of stress in my life as a result of the illness as well. Both real and perceived stress. I do worry and process constantly. I have a need to understand everything on a psychological level so I process as a rule. When the situation yields no answers then I become stressed.
I have had to employ for myself many strategies that I teach my clients. I have also chosen to seek therapy on a regular basis. I have a go to colleague who is there for me when I need them to be. A space where I can be totally honest and let it all out.
Chronic Illness is one of the major risk factors to mental illness. If the person suffering the illness is not made aware of or introduced to some of the protective factors then the risk is higher. In my case it is a blessing that I am aware on a professional level of many of the issues I face and have the resources and contacts to deal with them.
Despite all this, it is a day to day struggle sometimes to keep positive, keep looking up, keep fighting and advocating on my own behalf.
As I said in the beginning………….how could life with a physical chronic illness not impact mental health…………its not possible. The difference in outcome is how it is dealt with and the resources that come to bear in the situation.