The Fine Line Between Chronic Illness and Depression


Some days, I walk an incredibly fine line while trying to navigate life with chronic illness, depression and anxiety.

Today is one of those days.

On days like today, it’s difficult for me to tell if the symptoms from my chronic medical conditions are causing me to feel depressed, or if my depression is causing my symptoms to flare.

It’s like the age old question about which came first – the chicken or the egg? But rather, which came first? The depression or the chronic illness symptoms?

Perhaps it’s combination of each.

Either way, all that I know is that on days like today, I physically and emotionally feel like hell.

I know what I need to accomplish, but it’s as if my brain and body have lost a vital connection. I feel stuck emotionally and struggle physically with the most basic of tasks, such as showering, clearing house and doing laundry.

On days like today, I feel all jittery inside, as if I’ve had too much coffee, but I have only had one cup.

On days like today, blood pools in my extremities, depriving my brain of the oxygen needed to be able to think a complete thought and carry on a coherent conversation.

My feet and lower legs are a lovely hue purplish blue and my fingers turn bright white due to the lack of blood flow.

On days like today, I must set little achievable goals, such as: get out of bed, get dressed, water the plants and take care of my family’s basic needs.

This helps me to feel as if I still have some control over my body and my life.

On days like today, it’s difficult to work, so I try to focus on simple tasks, such as sending mass emails, and organizing and preparing for the days when my brain and body finally reestablish a connection again.

On days like today, I must be mindful not to miss an appointment, a deadline, or lose my temper and say or do something that I might regret later.

Brain fog is a real and frustrating condition.

On days like today, when the barometric pressure is dropping and the rain is moving in…I feel every system in my body being affected. I experience fluctuations in my heart rate, hypertension, vision changes, joint pain, pressure headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, and severe neck and back pain.

I have become quite adept at living with daily pain; it’s the god damn awful feeling of being mentally frozen that causes me the greatest frustration.

On days like today, I get anxious about not being able to give my all and I worry that I will disappoint others…my husband, kids, friends, family and my employer.

On days like today, I feel like a fake and a fraud.

I feel like an impostor who has stepped in to live my life, but only in a half-ass way.

Some days, like today, suck beyond the telling of it.

I’m not always sure how I will get through a day like today, but somehow I always manage.

On days like today, I must continue to remind myself that on my good days, I am damn good.

I am a damn good wife, mother, employee, writer, advocate, activist and most importantly, I am a good human being.

I guess on days like today…that is what really matters.

Getty Image by Wavebreakmedia


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


Related to Dysautonomia

17 Unexpected Coping Techniques That Help People Manage Dysautonomia

17 Unexpected Coping Techniques That Help People Manage Dysautonomia

One of the challenging aspects of dysautonomia is figuring out exactly which combination of strategies, lifestyle changes and medications work for you. Your doctor might suggest a number of ideas, like increasing your fluid and salt intake and wearing compression stockings; plus, your fellow “POTS-ies” and other people with dysautonomia might have discovered some additional [...]
A sketch of a woman with hair covered in a variety of colors.

What It Means for Me to Live Fearlessly With Dysautonomia

I pinpoint a word each year in hopes of focusing my mind and handling challenges that develop when living with chronic medical problems. This year’s word is “fearless.” Fearless – bold, brave, courageous, oblivious of dangers or perils, or calmly resolute in facing them. I did not pick the word fearless, rather it chose me. [...]
woman in hospital bed and woman with half of face rash

13 Little-Known Symptoms of Dysautonomia — in Photos

Dysautonomia is typically described as an “autonomic nervous system disorder,” with hallmark symptoms including dizziness and fainting upon standing. But since the autonomic nervous system regulates functions throughout the body, people with dysautonomia experience a wide range of symptoms that go beyond just those that are more widely known. Although dysautonomia is not rare, it’s [...]
left photo shows a woman in the hospital with monitors attached to her head and chest. right photo shows a woman sleeping under a pink blanket

14 Symptoms of Dysautonomia – as Shown in Photos

Although many people may experience similar symptoms, dysautonomia (an umbrella term for disorders of the autonomic nervous system) looks different for everyone. Whether you’re battling largely “invisible” symptoms, such as dizziness or fatigue, or something more apparent, like blood pooling or excessive sweating, these symptoms can often manifest in a variety of ways, depending on [...]