Sheryl from A Chronic Voice, as well as sharing her own stories and lessons with chronic illness. Sheryl is an excellent support to other bloggers and writers living with illness and chronic pain. One such way is through monthly link-up parties whereby bloggers and writers share their stories through given prompts. As World Mental Health Day fell in October, I decided to use the prompts to discuss chronic illness and mental health.

Chronic Illness: Directing a Battle Concerning Our Mental Health

In my last blog post, I recited a famous quote from the Shakespeare play, As You Like It. All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” But if I indeed am the player or actor than what role would chronic illness assume? 

After much thought, I concluded that chronic illness surely would assume the position of a director. A director, the person in charge and assumes all responsibility for every facet of a film or stage production. It can feel like chronic illness plays a similar role in the lives of those forced to live with it.  

When living with a chronic illness it not only has a significant impact upon your physical health, but has one on your mental health also. Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay.

For much of the time, illness, much like a film director, has control over every facet of our lives. It has control over how we think and feel, or even whether we can get out of bed. It often drastically limits what we can do, and brings a whole lot of uncertainty to everyday life. And it has complete control over where and when the symptoms that accompany it will strike.

“For much of the time, illness, much like a film director, has control over every facet of our lives. It has control over how we think and feel, or even whether we can get out of bed.” Click To Tweet

But chronic illness is not directing a cute rom-com or a cheesy comedy. It is producing a narrative depicting a battle; a battle that is not only physical but one that also concerns our mental health.

“But chronic illness is not directing a cute rom-com or a cheesy comedy. It is producing a narrative depicting a battle; a battle that is not only physical but one that also concerns our mental health.” Click To Tweet

Acquiring Not Only Physical Symptoms But Symptoms Associated with Mental Health Also

Once again overwhelmed by severe and debilitating symptoms, it feels that FND is once again directing over my entire life. Trembling and weakness, particularly in my legs, have become incredibly tenacious, and the pain associated with it especially incessant. It is easy to become morose and unhappy during a surge of unrelenting and ceaseless symptoms such as this.  

“It is easy to become morose and unhappy during a surge of unrelenting and ceaseless symptoms.” Click To Tweet

As my legs continue to buckle when trying to stand, I can only lie down and surrender to the torment such symptoms have on my life. It is a constant reminder that I no longer have control over my illness. It’s accompanying symptoms once again prove that they play by their own rules. As I lose control over my body, panic often ensues as I feel unsafe and vulnerable. I develop a deep distrust of my body as it continually deteriorates and redefines itself as something weaker than before.  

It is easy to fall into despair and hopelessness, even depression when experiencing a surge of unrelenting and debilitating symptoms—photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash.

“As I lose control over my body, panic often ensues as I feel unsafe and vulnerable. I develop a deep distrust of my body as it continually deteriorates and redefines itself as something weaker than before.” Click To Tweet

The Grief and Burden of Being Chronically Ill; Leading to Feelings of Anxiety and Depression

As the hatred and distrust of my body continue to grow, it slowly develops toward hatred of myself also. Severely limited by the symptoms that continually plague me, I begin to feel useless. Weak. Worthless. A burden. The sadness of the permanency of my condition and the lack of relief that my prescribed medications deliver weighs heavily. Many a morning, I find myself in floods of tears as the burden of being ill becomes too much to bear. Once again, the grief of being chronically sick overwhelming both my body and mind.

“The sadness of the permanency of my condition and the lack of relief that my prescribed medications deliver weighs heavily. Many a morning, I find myself in floods of tears as the burden of being ill becomes too much to bear.” Click To Tweet

Anxiety and fear of the future haunt my thoughts as I worry that I continue to worsen; troubled by what FND will take from me next. The permanence of the condition and the uncertainty that it leaves in its wake leaves me anxious and fearful; anxious thoughts wrangle for attention and shining a flashlight of everything I cannot control.  

“The permanence of the condition and the uncertainty that it leaves in its wake leaves me anxious and fearful; anxious thoughts wrangle for attention and shining a flashlight of everything I cannot control. ” Click To Tweet

But it’s not only anxiety of the future that continually haunts me. With the increase of falls that I experience, leaving the safety and comfort of home has become daunting and anxiety-inducing.  

As the emotional burdens of continue to grow, they become bigger and bigger metamorphosing into depression and anxiety.

As the emotional burdens of continue to grow, they become bigger and bigger metamorphosing into depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression becoming other symptoms to contend with alongside the physical manifestations of chronic illness. 

“As the emotional burdens of continue to grow, they become bigger and bigger metamorphosing into depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression becoming other symptoms we are forced to contend with.” Click To Tweet

Disappointing Myself Because of Limitations 

As much as I experience triumphs and progress from the confines of FND, they are often fleeting. The impact of its symptoms revealing the limitations of my body and health. Things that once came effortlessly have now become difficult. I often find myself unable to get out of bed straightaway in the mornings due to the severe weakness in my legs, for example. The ever-growing limitations have made me more reliant on others. As a result, I often feel great disappointment in myself. 

“As much as I experience triumphs and progress from the confines of FND, they are often fleeting. The impact of its symptoms revealing the new limitations of my body and health.” Click To Tweet

girl crying while touching glass window
Living with disabling symptoms can result in anxiety about a lot of things, but especially about going out as we can never know when symptoms are going to appear. It can lead to a lack of confidence, isolation and depression.

Recently, with the increasing number of times my legs have collapsed, I have lost all confidence in not only them but going out. As a result, I have backed out of countless trips, anxious that my legs will do so while out. With every cancelled plan, the disappointment I feel toward myself only deepens; feeling not only physically weak but mentally too. Such incidents continually chip away at my self-confidence and deepening the depressed feelings also. 

“With every cancelled plan, the disappointment I feel toward myself only deepens; feeling not only physically weak but mentally too. Such incidents continually chip away at my self-confidence and deepening the depression.” Click To Tweet

Switching Up Thoughts of What Came First 

Many of the symptoms that I experience due to FND can also be signs of conditions such as anxiety. Anxiety itself can produce physical symptoms such as shaky legs, a racing heart and shortness of breath as examples.  

The lies that depression and anxiety whisper to you can lead to self-doubt and the belief that the symptoms you are experiencing are all in your head and ultimately your fault—photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels.

For me, I am well aware of this as for many years, the symptoms I was experiencing, were attributed to depression and anxiety. Such conclusions only strengthened when physical tests came back as normal. It took many years and many many hospital appointments before receiving the diagnosis of a Functional Neurological Disorder and probable Cerebral Palsy. At that defining appointment, the specialist assured me that the symptoms weren’t due to depression or anxiety; and it was not ‘all in my head’ as I had heard many times before. Instead, the depression and anxiety I experience are a result of living with a long-term neurological condition.

“Depression and anxiety regularly feed lies to you, convincing you that the symptoms experienced are your fault. They persuade me that it is indeed all in my head, and consequently, I am to blame for me being sick.” Click To Tweet

But still, as depressed and anxious thoughts run throughout my brain, I begin to doubt this fact, however. Depression and anxiety regularly feed lies to you, convincing you that the symptoms experienced are your fault. During my worst times with this illness, they persuade me that it is indeed all in my head, and consequently, I am to blame for me being sick.

Chronic Illness: Forming A Battle Between Physical and Mental Health

In my history of living with FND, depression and anxiety have become adjoining features of my experience with it. But it is not only my experience. According to Paul Mayberry and a Metro article on the relationship between chronic illness and mental health, forty-nine per cent of those suffering from a chronic illness are also prescribed anti-depressants. Research has also suggested that anxiety is more common in persons with a chronic disease than in the general population. 

When battling through a severely debilitating flare, it can feel as though both my physical and mental health are conspiring against me

“According to Paul Mayberry and a Metro article on the relationship between chronic illness and mental health, forty-nine per cent of those suffering from a chronic illness are also prescribed anti-depressants.” Click To Tweet

Physical and mental health are inextricably linked, both working in unison and having a significant effect on the other. When battling through a severely debilitating flare, it can feel as though both my physical and mental health are conspiring against me. But, I have also learnt that to thrive, I cannot focus on just one aspect of my health. Instead, I need to work on both physical and mental health to live a happier and brighter life. 

“When battling through a severely debilitating flare, it can feel like as though my physical and mental health are conspiring against me.” Click To Tweet

October Link-Up Party with A Chronic Voice





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