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How I Manage My Mental Health as Someone With Chronic Illnesses

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In 2013 I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Along with that, my anxiety and depression have appeared more than they used to; they come and go. My anxiety was the worst and it still creeps up on me from time to time. I sometimes have panic attacks from heartburn / indigestion / arthritis in the sternum.

These conditions have made me depressed, angry and frustrated, especially when my body won’t allow me to do something or won’t stop hurting even when I have done everything to try and stop it — pain killers, heat packs, massages. Sometimes while I am out, I will pick up a virus or a bug due to my low immune system.

I am only 33 and these conditions have really taken over my life. I worry that when I am out and about my hip will go out or I will fall over and seriously hurt my back. That gives me anxiety sometimes, so I normally grab a trolley when I can, even though I might be getting a few things it still helps me feel a little more stable and in control.

When I was dealing with everything at the start, a few of my GPs suggested I go see a counselor. They did actually help by letting me get my frustrations out and talk about what is going on inside my head and my body without the judgment or the “I feel sorry for you” face.

I have found a few things that work for me, like laying down and listening to music, and going out for a walk (I usually try to do 5,000-10,000 steps a day depending on what my body allows). That has been helping to clear the hornets in my head, as well as doing Warm Water Movement Therapy class, which has definitely made a great change in not only my mental state but also my flexibility and weight loss. I have lost around 30 kgs since I started going to the pool at the end of January this year. My trainer Martin has helped me; I have put in the work, but he really has changed me in so many ways.

I also like to write down things or write blog posts. I will post most of them on my blog but there are some things I just write down and just to get things off my chest. I will also try doing some adult coloring books or a jigsaw puzzle (depending on if my hands allow me to do so).

The best thing I have found for me is to have rest days, as stress makes my condition worse, so I get rid of as much stress as possible from my life.

If I am having a moment of sadness or anger, I usually allow myself to feel it for a little while and then do something about it. I try to remember there are people in this world worse off than I am, and my condition is what it is. Nothing is going to change that and there is no cure. So I pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going to the next hurdle. I believe the key is to get yourself back up no matter what, because you always have a choice in life. You can wallow in self-pity or keep fighting and keep going. I believe no matter how hard things seem at that moment in time, it will get better.

Getty image by primipil.

Originally published: December 29, 2019
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