Mental Health! Its OK to be not OK! How does IBD effect My Mental Health and how do I manage it?.
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
This is possibly the most personal and difficult blogs to write, considering some of what I have shared you may find that hard to believe, but for me, mental health is a big issue, I know many loved ones whom suffer and genuinely feel its something that hits us all at some point in our lives to some degree. It must be talked about and the taboo lifted, so here goes…
I have always been knows as a smiler, the cheeky one who's always on the go, I don’t shut up, I'm excitable and encouragable, I'm always bouncy, I don’t sit still, I fly around like a busy bee, I love helping others! I am no athlete but I can dance, well I like to think I can 😉, I taught Zumba for 2 years with a smile and a whoop and plenty of get up and go!
Yes, I have been all of those things and I am sure more, but that’s the positives, some are a thing of the past, many still very present on a good day! Those are the things people love about me, but now I have a much darker side to me, the one I was mostly gifted by inflammatory bowel disease, the side of me I’d gladly give back!
Much of these traits I know, to some degree, are normal and required to be a balanced person and present in all of us, I know some undesired ones are now a part of me, mostly a lesser part, but on occasions, over the last 15 years, they has taken over and consumed me for a time.
So what is in the light and what do I consider I have gained in the dark? Not the regular negatives we all need to remain balanced and fair, but the darker ones no one wants to recognise.
This is ME!
The Light v's The Dark!
For me, as I have shared previously in a separate blog, Steroids have had an immense impact on my emotions and mental health, over the years and have caused me much of the darkness, but being constantly ill and living my life around poop also takes over, I am able to face new treatments and procedures with enthusiasm, but then, I all too often face the let down when they fail and feel a failure when they don’t work.
I suffer extreme guilt, in fact for me that is probably the most over whelming feeling I have, much of the time, well or not. Guilt that my kids have never known me well, guilt that I can’t work full time and support my family better, guilt that I always have something wrong going on with me and that my partner has to care for me and make constant allowances for my health, guilt that I cancel on friends and am not the best friend to them as I’m often not wanting to go out or away etc. Guilt that people see me being so hard on myself it upsets them. There have been times I have asked those I love to leave to stop me feeling guilty, but I know, and so do they luckily, that that’s not what I want at all, I just want the guilt to go away. I am extremely lucky that my loved ones have stuck by me, they are my strength when I need it most.
So how do I cope?
I don’t always, I have dark days when all I want to do is hide away and cry, be angry and let myself wallow in a bit of self-pity, but I have more days when I can be on the light side. I have medication to help as I know, without it, I get too stressed and the acid builds up and sets off my stomach, so it helps keep it at a manageable level. Stress and depression in itself is an illness, if I had a headache, I’d take a paracetamol, if I cut my leg I’d use a plaster, so if I’m stressed or depressed I treat it with the appropriate drug, in my case a low dose of Citalopram that can be increased if I need in times of extreme pressure, often caused by having to make life changing choices that only I can make. It takes off the extremity of the feelings and allows me to function even though I feel it is just another side effect of the disease I must manage.
I haven’t found a way to avoid the bad feelings but as I have grown to know and understand my disease, I have more control and can manage the feelings better, they hit rarely now in short bursts and are always prompted by stress or problems around the illness, medication or the situation I end up in, such as hospital or being off work long term. I know they are not my fault and are manageable.
Before I was diagnosed with IBD in 2003 I had no mental health issues and I don’t suffer depression in general, more as a side effect of my circumstances, I still function, and it passes, I feel I am lucky for that and each time I feel bad I can recognise it, learn and overcome it. I know its not my fault but that will never help me with the underlying feelings of guilt, anger and insecurity. When I look back at previous diaries and blogs (RAW, The bad times, written in 2015, shared in August 2018) I can see just how far I have come, how dark it can get.
My life and body have. and still are changing beyond my control, I can’t always be the mum, partner, sister, daughter or friend I’d like to be, but I know those around me understand now and accept me as I am, this helps me reassure myself that I will always be OK.
Talking is one of the best medicines, I find it helps to share, and with mental illness such a current issue in general in the world as well as prominent in IBD sufferers, raising awareness by sharing can hopefully help others, realising you are not alone is a great comfort.
I am strong, I am my own Warrior!