Anxiety and Depression Are More Than Just Side Effects of Chronic Illness

I want to talk about something that is almost taboo, especially if you already have a preexisting illness – and that’s mental illness. It can be hard to admit it might not just be a “bad day,” especially when you have a bad week and you can’t get out of bed. It can be hard to accept that maybe it’s not your physical ailment keeping you down, maybe it’s not that medicine you’re on, maybe it’s more. The biggest problem I’ve come to realize in my own journey is it’s hard to accept I not only have congenital heart disease and numerous medical issues, but the way I view myself and the world around me isn’t “right.” The hardest step for me was to ask for help from a professional, because I didn’t want to admit there was something else wrong with me.

woman standing on a balcony watching the sunrise

Everyone has their own demons and sometimes one person’s demons are a little too big for them to fight on their own. I realized something was wrong when making a simple decision felt like a life or death situation. Having anxiety is knowing the problem isn’t that bad, but no matter what I do or how much I breathe and calm myself down, I can’t let go, I can’t get ahold of the situation and I can’t deal with it.

Everyday tasks seemed to break me down, because every decision I made felt like there was a tremendous consequence I couldn’t avoid. Now let’s add having already existing medical issues that forced me to make decisions, and most times I couldn’t take those back. The anxiety of knowing the well-being I held onto could crumble down with one wrong decision about even a simple task makes it nearly impossible to close my mind off, yet I think ,“If I just stay where I am, I don’t have to make any decisions and the world will still go on without me getting out of bed.” My anxiety had become comfort food to my depression.


I started seeing a specialist and I’m working on putting my demons to sleep. I’m working on being the best me I can be in any situation that is thrown my way. I wanted to write this so others know that even though it hurts, and you may think you’re the only one going through this, you’re not. We might all have our own demons and our own way of dealing with stress due to the outcomes of our lives, but you are not alone and there isn’t something “wrong” with you. It may feel hard to burden others who work so diligently on getting our physical health by telling them you’re breaking down on the inside too, but it’s so important they know.

Through my journey, I’ve learned that my mental health plays a big role in the way my body feels, acts and reacts to stress, and how having a rein on it is helping keep my heart healthy(ish).

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Congenital Heart Defect/Disease

woman hanging on to street lamp in new york city

Please Don't Call Me 'Brave' for Living With Congenital Heart Disease

Nothing about this is brave, it’s a matter of survival. Hearing people say “You’re so brave” has always made me feel uncomfortable… like what choice did I have? I was talking to one of my friends who has a different congenital disease and we don’t understand why people say it to us. Those who had a [...]
three friends taking a selfie on a pier

What I Want My Friends to Know as Someone With a Congenital Heart Defect

Typically I don’t mention that whole heart condition thing unless I’m really close to the person. I found out the hard way that people sometimes treat you differently once they know. They act like you are weak and can’t do anything. Instead of asking if you need help they assume you do. Or they stop [...]
Baby lying on a sheet, with connections to an echocardiogram

Why I Have to Ask If Your Child Is Vaccinated

Hey new mom friend, Ashley here. Jackson’s mom — yes, that Jackson. The one with the trach, the one with the CHD (congenital heart disease), and the one your little one just invited over to play. Or maybe we set up the time to meet. Either way, I’m super excited to be getting together. Play [...]
Woman with blue sunhat on, water colored,with flying birds in the background.

How My Mother Taught Me to Live With My Chronic Illness

Some people receive a devastating diagnosis later in life, but for me, I received my diagnosis when I was born. I was unable to comprehend what my diagnosis meant and how it would alter the course of my life, but my mom could. She took the burden of helplessness, anxiety, and pain as I went [...]