Mental Health with Physical Illness
This is a post that I've wanted to write for a long time. And now that I have COVID, I have some time😅
Mental health is such an important topic, and something that deserves as much attention as any physical health issue.
When creating a time line of when I started to have a significant amount of anxiety, it is hard to ignore that those symptoms started at the same age of my other EDS symptoms. Honestly, I didn't put this together until recently.
History (If you're interested):
At the start of 7th grade, I had some anxiety about starting a new school (To my students who I know read this, remember I am old; I went to Jr. High, not Middle School). That is what I would classify as very typical anxiety for a child of that age. What wasn't so common was my anxiety seemed to transform into horrible acid reflux. I had/have a fear of throwing up, so having reflux caused me even more anxiety.
Those symptoms would come and go over the years, but the anxiety reached one of it's peaks in 10th grade. I stopped eating any acidic foods, took medicine 20 minutes before I ate anything, and this one still gets me, stopped eating chocolate (only one of my favorite things in the word). I couldn't get through dance classes without having anxiety attacks, traveling was incredibly difficult, and I felt like I was in a fog.
I could seriously have a whole separate blog about this time in my life.
This was all before talking about mental health was common. I didn't know what I was experiencing was anxiety. I purely thought acid reflux could make you feel this way.
In college this continued, but it reached another peak in my third year. My sister talked me into talking to a doctor about trying medication.
Boy oh boy, was that a game changer. I remember about 6 months into taking the medication I was driving and had a realization that I wasn't thinking about being anxious. That was probably the first time in years.
Last Summer, my anxiety felt under control as it had for the past few years. Then I got diagnosed with EDS.
This is where I have a difficult time writing. Not because things significantly deteriorated and I have been spiraling, but because pretty much the opposite happened.
After years and years of pain, I got a confirmation that I wasn't making anything up. I got confirmation that something was actually happening in my body.
What else did I find out? That reflux/GERD is a symptom of hEDS. Having causation for my symptoms has put my mind at ease. Now when I have reflux or joint pain, I know that it's because of EDS and not a mystery. Having that knowledge allows my brain process the information much more easily.
Sometimes I get asked how I feel about having to deal with the doctors appointments, negative news, procedures, etc. but the answer? I'm really okay. There are days that I am frustrated that I can't do something without pain, but overall, I just roll with whatever.
I will say, I have been gifted with a go-with-the-flow attitude which has definitely made having a chronic illness more tolerable.
More than that though, I have found what's been most important is acknowledging my restrictions and finding a positive outlook.
Here are some examples of thoughts I've had since being diagnosed:
1. I have to limit myself in doing what I love most (dance)
When I have less painful days, I appreciate being able to dance so much more.
Through Physical Therapy, I've learned a lot more about the body and can teach more body awareness to my students
2. I have to spend more time and money on doctors appointments that may lead to no answers or no improvement
All I can do is try. Knowing that everything I try may or may not work, has given me a very content outlook on life.
With every appointment that leads me to a "no" rules out something else
Fun Fact: I did my taxes and found out I spent 20k in out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2021
3. I am restricted in playing with my nieces (this honestly might be the hardest one)
There is nothing more important in my life than being Auntie Si Si. I might not be able to throw them in the air, or go on super long walks, but that doesn't change how much I love them.
In life there are going to be ups and downs, but how you deal with them is what makes you stronger.
This is just a reminder, that this blog is my personal experience. People with physical illnesses might also experience the complete opposite in regards to mental health. It is important to recognize that both situations are okay, and that everyone deals with diagnoses differently.
Be Brave. Stay Kind. Much Love.