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When the Stress of Having a Rare Illness Took a Toll on My Mental Health

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Having a rare disease can cause you to develop depression and anxiety easily enough in itself, but what happens when the outside world starts poking that big stick and things tumble around you?

Living a life with a rare disease can be brutal on your mental state. Always questioning your health, constant limitations, and feeling less then normal in a world where we strive for normalcy, can bring out the worst in a person. The key is to understand how to bring out the best in yourself when the cards are stacked against you. 

I was one of those people who would constantly push their feelings way down. I never let my emotions run their course. I would ignore any sad feeling, and cover it with bitter sarcasm.

This, the shoving my emotions into the pit of my stomach, started as a teenager. I didn’t want to be different. The misery of knowing I would live the rest of my life being different because of my disorder was unbearable. I shoved it deep down and locked it away.

When I was younger my concerns with illness were more shallow, like how my illness makes me appear to look different from others my own age. Then, as I grew up, my concerns and emotions were tied up with things like dealing with  medical insurance, lengthy visits to the doctor, chronic pain, and on top of caring for myself, having a job and family that I have to stay healthy for.

I got bogged down.

It was like my brain over loaded.

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I didn’t find joy in anything.

It was like the color in my world slipped away and everything was a matte gray. 

Six months ago, after years of suppressing my fears and feelings, the beast of depression came knocking at my door. And it knocked hard, flattening the locked doors I had shoved every miserable thought and feeling behind.

I was too stubborn to go to my doctor for help. For three months I let depression wage war on me. My family and very close friends knew there was something wrong. They knew my light went out.

After a lengthy and “tough love” type of conversation I had with my best friend, I finally gave in. I went to my doctor and asked for help.

I was comforted when my doctor said that it’s extremely common for people who have life long illnesses to go through bouts of depression.

I wasn’t alone. That was a huge relief. I felt better knowing that having depression did not make me a weak person. I did however, make myself weaker by not seeking help sooner.

I went and filled my prescription for Lexapro. It took a few weeks to kick in, but I noticed the color coming back into my life. I noticed I could start handling my emotions and not locking them away. I noticed I was happy.

Just taking a pill wouldn’t fix my problems. I needed an outlet. That’s when I started writing. These posts are my therapy. They give me a tool to work through my emotions. They give me strength.

I am such a different person than I was six months ago. I don’t even look back at the breaking point.

I finally stopped and took care of myself instead of using a Band-Aid for a quick fix. It’s an amazing feeling to start crawling out of the depression hole.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, speak to your doctor. It’s going to be totally worth it.

Originally published: October 4, 2016
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