Welcome to another week of the #SelfCareMvmt! This series on self-care is such an important one for chronic illness patients. It sounds counterproductive, but chronic illness patients tend to let self-care fall by the wayside, when we’re the ones who need it more than normal! I’m definitely guilty of this, so this week we’re talking about psychological and emotional self-care. If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, read week one, read week two, and read week three to get yourself caught up! Remember to follow the movement from Self Care Catalysts on social media with #SelfCareMvmt.
I’ve never shied away from that fact that I struggle with significant depression and anxiety. Both lifelong issues, they never became truly intrusive to my day-to-day life until I was diagnosed with chronic diseases. Though separate diseases, depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand for me. I never understood the impact of mental health on quality of life and on physical health until both really started to rule over my life. That’s not to say they still do, or that they don’t; it’s a work in progress really.
As anyone that struggles with clinical depression and/or anxiety will know, it can be a monthly, weekly, or even daily battle. For me, the depression ebbs and flows, but it’s always there, like a creepy lurker. On the other hand, my anxiety is more present and glaring, at least currently. I’ve always been an anxious person, but I’ve noticed more in the past year how it actually impacts my physical health. I’m not going to sit here and give you some sort of miraculous and enlightening advice on conquering mental health and depression and anxiety. Honestly, because it isn’t always something you can conquer. I’m getting real on you here: something it’s just something to live with in the best and healthiest way possible. And for me, that’s how it works. I have surrendered to the concept that I am someone that battles depression and anxiety. Sometimes it’s debilitating, but most times it’s just like a tiny itch that won’t really go away.
In saying all of that, there are really beneficial ways to improve your quality of life when dealing with depression and anxiety, or other mental health conditions (but I can honestly only speak about depression and anxiety in my experience). I am a firm believer in anti-depressants and therapy. The combination of those two treatments have had the biggest impact on the management of my psychological and emotional self-care. I have been on anti-depressants on and off for about 4-5 years now, and I can speak from experience that I am hands down better when I’m on them. They aren’t perfect, and they aren’t a miracle drug. But I have gone off of them and NO THANK YOU! Anti-depressants are truly a personal journey and also filled with trial and error. I’m not sure that mine work the best for me, but at this point, they work well enough to avoid the process of weaning off and trying a new type. At least for right now!
Adding therapy to the treatment is also extremely important for me. It’s not about talking about some huge damaging life event (although some depression and mental health is more about that); for me it’s almost like maintenance. Some weeks it’s just a vent session, and it’s nothing significant. But other weeks it’s truly trying to get out of the dark places, or trying to handle situations that arise in life in a healthy manner, rather than either shutting down and/or letting anxiety take over. I strongly believe in the power of therapy. In fact, I really think everyone should see someone on a regular basis; there are far too many people out there who feel embarrassed or too proud to see a therapist. And honestly, get over it. Mental health is just as important, if not more, to your physical health check-ups.
Aside from medication and therapy, there are also a few things I introduced into my life to help with the day-to-day management of depression and anxiety. I’ve talked about the Health Storylines app before, but one of the biggest benefits of the app is allowing it to become a sort of daily mental journal and check-in. Reminding yourself to record your daily moods, or just to check in every so often on how you’re feeling emotionally can have such a positive impact on chronic illness. As cliche as it sounds, chronic life is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking one day at a time can make a world of a difference. The app’s Daily Moods allows me to really take a look back and see how my depression and anxiety are being managed. Sometimes I think everything is okay and perfectly managed, but then I look back at the history in the app and realize, oh, maybe I had more bad days than I acknowledged. It’s a true benefit to holding myself accountable for my mental health status as well.
Managing your mental health is a truly personal journey. Nevertheless, I really do believe in the power of the simple things. Here’s what I mean: spend time with your friends, laugh, laugh even more, cry if you need to, sleep, find ways to reduce your stress and relax, watch trashy television shows, sleep some more, etc. All of those things not only help manage and treat depression and anxiety, but sometimes it’s just as simple as taking your mind off of things! My theme for this #selfcaremvmt series has really been about being kind to yourself, and I wholeheartedly believe that’s what managing chronic diseases is all about. Give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack!
What are some of your tried and true methods for practicing psychological and emotional self-care? Leave your experiences in the comments below!