I’ve been writing and rewriting this in my mind for the last few days, and either it was time to write it out, or let it swallow me up.
Chronic illness, depression, and anxiety go hand in hand., Anyone who has a chronic illness will tell you.
When you have a chronic illness, life changes. Things you used to be able to do are no longer viable. You have to carefully plan things because you have to manage your energy levels.
A good way to describe the energy levels a chronic illness sufferer is “The Spoon Theory”, to which I will link below this post.
I suffer form a mild chronic illness. If you have read my previous posts, you know I suffer form chronic headaches. My headaches are at a very low level, and mostly manageable. I can function about 80% of the time normally.
However, just because it’s minor doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause issues.
Sometimes my headaches do flare up, which means I may have to cancel attending an event.
Imagine there’s an event you’re really looking forward to, a concert by your favourite music artist or group, a movie night or dinner out with friends, etc etc. Then, last second, you can’t go.
Sure, a normal person might arrange to make plans for another day.
But someone with a chronic illness can’t make definite plans, because they can never predict when their illness will flare up.
This is why I set most of the events I plan to go to as “Maybe” instead of “Yes” on Facebook. because I have no idea what my health will be like on that day.
And when I do have to cancel plans, I feel bad, like I am letting everyone else attending down, and it’s even worse when you are the organiser as you feel like you are letting everyone down.
The constant threat of having to cancel plans due to a pain flare up leads into anxiety and depression.
You start being anxious about dropping the mood at a social event you have been invited to. You fell like you are burden to everyone around you., so why bother going to an event in the first place?
This leads down a deep dark rabbit hole of circular thinking into depression.
You’ll bring the mood of a gathering down, people will resent you for it, so why bother going? What’s it going to matter? No one will miss you because no one cares about you.
And all of this feeds into loneliness, because you decide not to go, and you feel like you are all alone and that no one cares about you.
And this feeds again into the depression,
If no one cares about you, then what’s the point? Why bother living? What’s the point of doing anything?
Which leads to suicidal thoughts.
Would I ever actually kill myself? No, it’s not in my nature. But it crosses my mind a lot, because I’m sure that everyone’s life would be better off if I wasn’t around. Then I wouldn’t be a burden to anyone.
So you stay at home and just watch TV or play video games to try to distract yourself.
You either eat too much, or even though you are hungry and the fridge and cupboards have food, it’s too much effort to make something to eat.
It’s also too much effort to make yourself presentable, clean the house (that also comes under The Spoon Theory), etc.
And then this also feeds into depression because you hate yourself for not looking after yourself and your environment.
And in the end…
… you feel really lousy about yourself
Now, I’m sure you’ve seen those memes go around the internet about how eating healthy and going for a walk will cure your depression.
Those memes come from health nuts who follow people like The Food Babe and Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop brand and believe that putting a jade egg up your butt will cure you.
Yes, there are medications we take to even out our moods and help with our brain chemistry. But that only fixes part of the problem, as the underlying issue is still there – the chronic illness.
And it’s this never ending loop of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and fear that keeps circling around in our heads day in and day out.
And the only thing we can do is to keep going on.
We sufferers often do seek help and support.
I run a Facebook group for sufferers of chronic headaches and migraines. it’s a good place for people to seek help, support, information, and to vent.
(Although, I do tend to piss of the nephropathy crowd a bit, and we do kick out sellers and multi-level marketeers).
But, usually, we don’t overtly ask for help and support. We drop hints.
We say things like “Not feeling so well today” or “Taking a day off work” or “Feeling frustrated and angry” , or something similar.
Innocent remarks a normal person might make, but for chronic illness sufferers a cry for help.
Why don’t we ask for help straight up? Because we don’t want to be a burden on other people. We want to prove we are just like normal people and just make it through the day.
We don’t want to put other people out with our problems, with our suffering, and with out helplessness.
I hope this helps to clear things up about how chronic illness sufferers feel, and why they act the way they way they do.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Will try to answer them as best as I can.
The Spoon Theory