When You're Ill, It's OK Not to Be OK

I saw my asthma psychiatrist yesterday. I completely love her. (Not in the “patient falls in love with their doctor kind of way” – just in that she’s so lovely and good at her job.)

When I first started going to the respiratory department at Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth and they said I had to see her as a holistic approach to managing my asthma, I was like, “That will be one appointment. No way am I the type to sit and spill out my problems… plus it’s not bad enough that I need help.”

How wrong I was. I had high levels of anxiety and I was genuinely grieving the loss of my job and life as I knew it, so I was actually quite depressed.

I worried constantly about the effect I was having on my children and my family in general. I worried I was doing something wrong and it was my fault I was so ill. Or somehow I was making it up in my head and causing the symptoms. Because there had to be something I was doing wrong. And when I wasn’t worrying about those things, I’d obsess over any random thing. To me, it was a part of who I was and it was something I had to deal with on my own.

She helped me so much. I’m not going to tell you these problems have all gone away. Or it was easy. I have to work at it. Some days harder than others. But I understand them. I’m not alone. People might not get how it feels, but they want to help.

Some things she was quite blunt with. She reminded me that I wasn’t “making it up” – and that she could show me scans and tests that show it isn’t, and so on. And at the time I felt a bit stupid, like I’d been told off. I kind of looked at my feet and didn’t want to talk to her anymore. But, afterwards, a big weight kind of lifted and I could see things a bit clearer.

She also told me that I don’t have the kind of power I seemed to think I had. Bad things don’t just happen, and I can’t control it. Worrying about it won’t effect what will happen. And, after a while, I began to see how much pressure I was putting on myself.

Other things required me to talk it out and lead myself to answers and ways to help myself.

Yesterday we agreed I probably only need three more sessions, which is sad because I like her. But, when I walk out of there, I walked taller. I have worked through something I was so determined could not be done and I didn’t need help for.

I am writing this because I think sometimes we trivialize asthma as a society. It makes us think our illness isn’t “that bad,” and so all the problems associated with it aren’t genuine. You know what? Yes, sometimes asthma is mild or well-controlled and those with the condition can lead a relatively healthy life. I’m not going to say that it’s a walk in the park for even those people though, as having a cold or being in contact with an allergen can be a nightmare. However, in general, they can do the stuff they want to do.

But sometimes it isn’t like that. I can’t walk up the stairs or have a shower some days. I’ve ended up in the resuscitation room enough for the nurses to know me. Then I am in wards with older ladies who smoked for 50 years. I’m 31 and never smoked. It feels unfair and that I shouldn’t have to be there. But I am because what I’m suffering with is serious. And when it seeps into every part of your life because the bad days are more often than not, it’s genuinely life-destroying and heartbreaking.

The medication we take can have absolutely horrific side effects. I have to sit and force myself to take my steroids some days. I feel sick at the thought of them because I know they are causing me so many problems. Then do you know what I feel? I feel guilty that I feel that way. It often feels like others have to deal with much worse medication and side effects. And some do, but that doesn’t make my feelings on what I am dealing with wrong.

I spent probably more than two years torturing myself and thinking I needed to deal with it on my own. I was lucky I was kind of forced into getting help. I know not everyone is that lucky.

If you are struggling with any illness, please ask for help. It doesn’t have to be as hard as it is. Asking for help does not make you weak or less of a person, and it won’t bother people – like I thought I would be. It’s why the services are there. Think of it like you are taking control back. You don’t have to deal with all the rubbish alone.

I know it’s cliché that asking is the hardest part, but I get that it is. And starting to talk is no walk in the park. But you will get through the other side. They might not make your illness go away, or even your problems, but you will know how to deal with them. I hope it will make your life so much happier.

Follow this journey on Eat. Sleep. Weeze. Repeat.

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