So, you’ve got the blues – those bothersome chronic illness depression blues.
Well, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
At one time or another, depression hits most people with chronic illness. Sometimes, it creeps in slowly, while at other times, it hits fast and furiously.
One moment you’ve accepted your condition and are feeling happy and content. You imagine your life in 5, 10 and 15 years and you know that things will get better. And, then bam, like a bolt of lightning, you feel a sense of impending doom and gloom. You feel as though you’ll never, ever, ever get better. You imagine your life worsening in 5, 10 and 15 years and this causes unrelenting hopelessness and depression.
Interestingly, depression affects people with chronic illness in different ways. One person may experience a depressive episode that lasts for minutes, whereas another may have a month-long depressive episode. Either way, both people experience a great deal of pain, mental anguish and emotional trauma. They feel down and wonder when things will get better.
Chronic Illness, Physical Pain and Depression
According to the Harvard Medical School, people with chronic illness are three times more vulnerable to depression than someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness. For instance, a person with a chronic heart condition has a 15-20% higher chance of experiencing depression opposed to someone who has a perfectly great heart and no illness.
In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health has said that certain chronic illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, can lead to depression because of the unusually “high number of re-uptake pumps for serotonin.” So, for 40% of people with Parkinson’s disease, they too will experience mental depression and periodic feelings of isolation, irritability, mood swings and personality changes.
In fact, anyone with a chronic illness is likely to experience depression!
Simply put, it is extremely hard to be positive and upbeat when you’re constantly worried about your health. It is hard to be happy when you hurt, ache and feel alone.
However, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible.
Here are some tips to overcome depression and improve your outlook.
- Recognize the symptoms of depression. If you suddenly experience anxious thoughts or no longer want to be around people who care about you, then that could be an impending sign. Some other signs include appetite loss, fatigue, insomnia, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, mood swings, withdrawal from social circles, physical pain, and an overall lack of interest in life and relationships. In essence, if you feel yourself slipping into a funk, something is definitely wrong!
- Give yourself permission to feel sadness. In most cultures, people are taught at an early age to hide or disguise their pain. They are taught that it isn’t proper to cry and that it is best to smile, even when you feel like crying. Don’t do this. Acknowledge that your emotions are real and that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad and depressed. This is a sign that you’re human. However, you can’t dwell on this sadness forever. Yes, cry and feel a range of sad emotions, but decide that you won’t dwell in this sadness for long.
- Deal with the pain and move past it. Although it is fine to feel painful feelings, don’t dwell on them for too long. Once you recognize that you’re sliding into a depressed state, try and refocus your thoughts on something more positive. For instance, if you’re feeling depressed, don’t just play sad songs on the radio as you think, Why? Why me? Choose to go past your condition. Choose to be more positive and to focus on positive thoughts. Do what you can to improve your mood and do it now! Singing upbeat music, going for a walk, and meditating are all quick tricks you can use to shift your mood.
- Talk to people who understand you. Discuss your feelings with people who love and care about you. Share your feelings and do not keep hurt and disappointment locked inside. Release these feelings so they don’t fester. If you’re not a communicative type, write a journal about your feelings. Just don’t let your feelings rot and fester! Let them out so they can begin to heal.
- Listen to positive messages. Hone into speaker who can lift your mood and help you feel better. Some of my favorites are Joel Olsteen, Darren Hardy, Peter Voogd, and Hal Elrod. Use positive affirmations to improve your outlook. For instance, you can say, “I am getting stronger and healthier every day” or “Happiness is within me. I choose happiness.”
- Help someone else. The best way to overcome depression is to motivate someone else who is having a rough time, whether it be physical, emotional or financial. By encouraging and helping them, you’ll lessen their burdens and you’ll get an instant happiness boost. Plus, you’ll soon realize that your life is not nearly as bad as it seems. Yes, you have pain and you have an illness, but you are alive and can be a blessing to others. Once you discover this, you’ll soon realize that your life is incredible and you have many, many, many things to be grateful for.
- Seek medical assistance. If you can’t seem to pull yourself out of a depressed mood, seek help from a physician who understands the physical and mental dynamics of your chronic illness. Find someone who will listen and help you to cope with your depression. Perhaps they can offer prescription medication, holistic remedies, or other treatment options. In all, they can certainly help you! You may not find the right psychiatrist for you right away, but do your best to be patient and persistent. Having a good doctor to help you through your depression is essential, so it’s worth some tedious research to find the right medical professional for you and your unique case.
In conclusion, being in a depressive state is never fun. In fact, it can be lonely, worrisome and scary. If you recognize yourself sliding or falling into a depressed state, recognize what is happening and then do something to change the situation for the best – give yourself permission, help someone else in need, refuse to dwell on the negative, share your feelings with others, and seek help from competent medical professionals. By doing this, you’ll improve your mood and be well on your way to brightening your mood and feeling happier.