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When My Physical and Mental Illnesses Feed Off One Another


When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was told that depression was commonly associated with it, so when I started to notice depression creeping in I didn’t think anything about it.

When my physical condition deteriorated, my mental condition declined as well. As new physical symptoms made their appearances, new mental health issues arose.

Still, I had no idea what was really going on. I didn’t understand how the two were related and why they seemed to worsen within the same time frame.

After a small amount of research, I found that when fibromyalgia flares, it can affect every system in your body. Flares make the normal, everyday pain experienced by a fibromyalgia patient increase pain intensity tenfold or more. This level of pain can make you unable to do things you’d normally be able to do. In fact, many times during a flare I spend days in bed. This is only ammunition for depression that already exists.

Having to ask others to do small things for you, like fixing a cup of coffee or a sandwich for lunch, can feel demeaning and degrading. At the very least, the frustration of not being able to do what you want when you want can be fuel for depression as well as other mental illnesses (in my case, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and PTSD).

Conversely, any disruption in the body can cause fibromyalgia to flare. This includes mental illness flare-ups. If my circumstances cause my depression to worsen, that change in my mental state can cause my blood sugar to rise, or my stomach to be upset which in turn triggers my fibromyalgia to flare.

Sometimes I feel like there’s no winning; my fibro triggers my depression and my depression triggers my fibro. Most days I wonder if my depression is making me hurt or if my pain is making me depressed.

I suppose it doesn’t matter which is happening. It’s frustrating to feel like there’s no winning – but then a day comes that I feel almost normal, and I’m able to cook for my family and enjoy a movie with them and I realize that the good days, regardless of how many there are, create moments that are so much more meaningful than any other days.

Getty Image by Marjan_Apostolovic