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The Depression That Results From Being Betrayed by Your Own Body

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April 15th is the day I consider my lupus diagnosis anniversary because it’s the day four years ago when a kind gentleman took about two dozen vials of blood out of my arm so my rheumatologist could figure out what war was being waged within my body. A few days later, he had the answer. It was lupus. I can recall the storm raging in my head as he went through the diagnostic checklist with me. There was no doubt that I was very sick.

I am now between that anniversary and the month of May, Lupus Awareness Month. I am sitting here contemplating how I will mark the days in an attempt to raise awareness and help others gain support in their battles.

A particular aspect of fighting this disease came to mind this morning: the psychological battle that comes with it. I know many question the depression that seems to follow in lupus’s wake. Some accept it and try to do something about it by seeking help or medications. Some don’t seem to be bothered by it in the least. And some try to deny it, insisting it isn’t an issue even though it’s rather obvious to onlookers. Personally, I chalk it up to a symptom of the waxing and waning repetitive grief cycle. Whether a physical, chemical or emotional manifestation, I can’t deny it exists in many of us in some form at differing intensities.

My rheumatologist has repeatedly asked me if I am depressed. I have told him yes. His response has been to try and get me to consider meds. I don’t want meds for it. I tried them before and felt very sick. I know others who have experienced relief from meds. I have sought counseling in the past, and it helped me. If I feel like it’s getting bad again, I will return to it. I don’t fall for the whole social stigma against it. We should be applauding individuals who recognize they need help for anything and get it. Shaming them for it is counterintuitive in my book.

Here’s what gets me – those who question the existence of lupus-related depression. Why wouldn’t many of us be depressed? Consider this scenario:

You are a princess. As a child, you have been given a lifelong companion who has sworn to protect you from all forms of evil invaders. He is your knight in shining armor – your immune system, destined to destroy all viruses and other foreign bacteria that enter your body. For most of your life, he has done exactly that. He has never left your side, fighting valiantly and declaring victory time after time in your honor. He has proven himself loyal to the end.

Or, so you thought. One day, out of nowhere, he attacks – you.

You run for your life. You seek the help of wizards with concoctions that may or may not work. Now, you must battle against the one you believed was your faithful guardian. Do you know that feeling? It’s betrayal.

There is help, but that help is limited. In truth, this is your battle against an opponent you need back on your side. How do you get him to regain his loyalty to you?

Finally, something works! He is weakened, he is somewhat confused, but he is back to fighting for you. But that betrayal was deep and painful. And, it may return. The wizard’s spell may work forever, or it may only work for a time. There are no guarantees.

You try to continue with your life, bruised and scarred from the fierce war you waged to win back your lifelong companion who can never be replaced. But – can you ever trust him again? When the next invader comes, will he fight for you, or will he stab you in the back? The wizards warn you that you must remain vigilant.

You must live your life the best you can with a wary eye over your shoulder. Whenever he pulls his sword from its sheath, you don’t know where he will strike. Wouldn’t that kind of existence make you just a little depressed? Have you ever been so deeply betrayed by your own body and know it could happen again? I have.

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Thinkstock photo via panic_attack.

Originally published: April 21, 2017
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