Caring for My Mind and Soul
When learning to live with a chronic disease it is easy to solely focus on our physical wellbeing while ignoring our emotional needs. It may be because we assume our emotional issues will be resolved once we figure out how to fix or combat our physical problems. We might think that our emotional needs aren’t as important, but we would be wrong.
Discovering emotional triggers
Throughout my chronic life I have discovered how my emotional state either contributes to or lessens my pain level. While not the cause of my pain, emotional stress and depression increase my pain level. This includes the emotions that I experience while watching movies or TV shows that are suspenseful or tear jerkers. Prior to my chronic life I could watch a gut wrenching movie, have a good cry, then wipe my tears and go on with my life. Now the hurt and emotional anguish stays with me for hours and sometimes days or weeks. This is why I prefer comedies. I still allow myself an occasional tear jerker, but only a few times a year. Sometimes in life a particular situation or words that are spoken bring back memories of a past traumatic event. Those memories can paralyze me both emotionally and physically. Without therapy I may have never recognized those triggers or learned how to process those feelings.
Recognizing the need for help
I wish I had sought help the moment memories from a past trauma began to haunt me. It was when I crumbled both physically and emotionally that I was able to admit that I couldn’t get past it without professional assistance. My emotional issues were the cause of more than sadness and despair, they increased both my fatigue and pain levels. They consumed me. I have counseled with professional therapists and some of my former pastors. With this combination I was able to find peace and solutions to either eliminate or limit how those memories affect me. One should never be ashamed or embarrassed for seeking help. There is nothing shameful in admitting that you are struggling or don’t know how to handle a situation. If your mind is consumed with sorrow, pain, or anger I implore you to seek help. Even if you are not dealing with a traumatic event, counseling can help you see how decisions you are making or how you are handle different situations may be increasing your physical pain. Little things like getting stuck in traffic used to stress me out. Muscle tension would increase my pain. Therapy taught me how to let go of things like this. Instead of tensing up and becoming angry I take a deep breath and remind myself that the world isn’t going to end just because I was delayed from traffic. This may sound trivial, but if you lived in southern California you would understand that it is rare to go anywhere and not get stuck in traffic. If I hadn’t learned to handle this stress before moving here every outing would have been a nightmare. Through counseling I have also learned how to mourn how I lived prior to becoming chronically ill. I apply the grieving process every time I experience another limitation or my conditions progress.
Finding a balance
Caring for our chronically ill bodies requires us to care for the whole package, mind, body, and soul. If one is out of whack it can cause the rest to follow suit. Taking time to pray, meditate, and/or go to therapy is just as important as caring for your body with exercise and making healthier food choices. It is unrealistic to never to expect to feel sad, hurt, discouraged, angry, or anxious. Those emotions are natural as long as they don’t out number the time you spend laughing or feeling joyful and hopeful. Therapy isn’t a one stop fix all. While I am no longer seeing a counselor on a regular basis, I do go back for occasional “tune-ups” when I feel my balance shifting to the dark side. Coming to terms with my physical disabilities took more than learning how to work with or around them, I also had to learn how to process the emotions that they produced and how I reacted to them. Remember this, your chronic disease is NOT in your head, it is REAL, but your emotions CAN make your condition worse.
Wishing you a day filled with many reasons to smile,
The Disabled Diva