When you have a chronic illness, it’s not just the physical symptoms that affect you – it’s the mental ones as well. Whether your illness is visible or invisible, it’s bound affect your mental health. The trauma of being ill/being in hospitals/having surgeries. The loneliness. The isolation. The unpredictable nature of whether you’ll be okay to going to ‘that’ event. The frustration. The pain. The fatigue. The fact that people don’t understand. The fact that people might get fed up or inpatient with you. All of that, and more, can wreck havoc on your mental wellbeing. I used to suffer with really bad FOMO (fear of missing out) – and I sometimes still do – and it was made so much worse when I could have gone to something, but I wasn’t up to it due to fatigue or stomach distress.. That’s difficult, missing out. The fear of letting people down or having to be ‘flaky’. Although nowadays I am a lot better (ie. fatigue affects me less and my digestive issues rarely cause a problem), it’s still something I have experienced.
In the very brief time I was at university, I was determined to ‘catch up’ on what I had missed by going out to clubs every night for 2 weeks.. Of course, I was only 18 years old at the time but even so; I wanted to be normal and pretend my illness didn’t exist. But soon caught up with me and really took its toll, mentally and physically. I only survived just under 2 months before I came home (although there were various reasons as to why I came home.. but more on that another time). The point is, I was so tired of being ill that I just wanted it to disappear. I thought that if I ‘acted’ normal, then I my health would be normal as well. I couldn’t pace myself. I didn’t want to be left out. I didn’t want to be alone. My mental health was all over the place. I just wanted to be like everybody else.
Now, I know the importance of pacing myself. I know when to listen to my body and take care of both my physical and mental wellbeing. It’s taken a few years but I’ve finally learned my limits. Sure, it can be very frustrating and I wish I could have unlimited energy like I used to when I was younger but you have to adapt to these things in life. You have to learn to accept yourself the way you are. I couldn’t be at war with my body anymore. I had to learnt to take care of it. You can’t always keep fighting with yourself, always pushing your body to its limits and not letting it heal and recuperate. Learning to be at peace with your body when you have a chronic illness is hard. Really hard. On the days I feel sad about it or I feel generally wiped out, I do what makes me feel better; watching Disney films, baking, having a nap, listening to music and talking to friends.
We’re always having to take care of our physical health when you have a chronic illness, but don’t neglect your mental health as it is just as important.