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Sarah Hyland Opens Up About Suicidal Thoughts and Her Second Kidney Transplant

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If you live with a chronic illness, you may have found yourself struggling with your mental health as well. You may be grieving because of your diagnosis or blaming yourself, even when it isn’t your fault. Actress Sarah Hyland shared with Self how hard it can be to emotionally process the fear, trauma and frustration of living with a chronic illness.

The “Modern Family” star was born with kidney dysplasia, meaning her kidneys didn’t develop correctly. In 2012, she received a kidney transplant when her dad donated one of his. Hyland’s body began rejecting her first transplanted kidney in 2016 and by September 2017, she had her second transplant. This time from her brother.

The experience was obviously physically draining, but it also took an emotional toll on Hyland. She felt guilty about her first transplanted kidney failing, though it was out of her control.

“When a family member gives you a second chance at life, and it fails, it almost feels like it’s your fault,” she told the magazine. “It’s not. But it does.”

Hyland’s fears of “failing” her little brother after the second kidney transplant led her to feel depressed and contemplate suicide. She said she felt like a burden to her friends and family, even when they assured her she wasn’t.

“I had gone through [my whole life] of always being a burden, of always having to be looked after, having to be cared for,” Hyland said.

While she sometimes worries she’s a burden, Hyland’s support system helped her move past her suicidal thoughts, and now she wants others to know it’s OK to share when they’re struggling.

“It’s not shameful,” Hyland said. “For anybody that wants to reach out to somebody but doesn’t really know how because they’re too proud or they think that they’ll be looked upon as weak, it’s not a shameful thing to say. It’s not a shameful thing to share.”

Hyland’s experience with her chronic illnesses, which also includes endometriosis, has taught her the importance of a support system and letting yourself emotionally process your health.

It’s really important to feel. There are times to swallow it and just continue working, but if you’re home and if you’re with your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your mom, your dog, your goldfish and you feel like crying, just cry. … Having a very strong support system is really, really, really important. And even when you have a strong support system, you have to utilize it.

While Hyland has gained new insight into her mental health, she’s also learned how to advocate for herself as a patient. She wants to pass that knowledge along to others who are struggling with their health.

Hyland’s first piece of advice is one you may have heard in school: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” Hyland told the magazine. “Especially when it comes to your health and your body.”

Hyland then offered that “being a well-informed patient is the best thing you can do” because you can’t control being sick but you can control your knowledge of the situation, especially if you ask those not-so-stupid questions.

If you live with a chronic illness, you might (rightfully so) focus all your energy on your symptoms, getting a diagnosis and seeking treatment. But don’t forget the rest of your well-being. You deserve to get help for your mental health just as much as your physical health. You are not a burden, nor should you feel guilty for being sick.

Image via Creative Commons/centuryblack9

Originally published: December 10, 2018
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