What It's Like To Live With a Chronic Illness and Depression
You might think that living with a chronic illness is hard. When you add depression that makes it much harder to deal with. An estimated one-third of people with chronic illness also experience depression. In my case, I became depressed years before I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.
I always think to myself that I can’t picture a person that has a chronic illness and doesn’t experience depression. It’s just so hand-in-hand to me at this point that I don’t know how you wouldn’t have both. Having a chronic illness is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. It affects you socially, physically, mentally, financially, basically any way you can think of. It changes your entire life. You have to adjust life as you knew it and do everything differently. No wonder one-third of us are depressed, too.
Chronic illnesses aren’t talked about very openly. Before I got one, I had no idea what they were. Being in pain forever? How can that be possible? Little did I know. When I first started being in pain, I isolated myself from everyone for months. Partly because I couldn’t even walk on my own, let alone go out and be social, but also because I got so tired of being asked what was wrong with me. I didn’t know, doctors didn’t know, so how could I explain that to someone who wasn’t going through what I was going through? It was a dark time in my life, to say the least.
I know that a lot of people go through isolation while dealing with chronic illness. Isolation directly leads to depression. There’s no way it couldn’t. Humans aren’t meant to be alone. Not being able to do what I used to do with my friends was and still is very depressing to me, especially as a young person with a chronic illness. All I want to do is go out and do stupid twenty-something-year-old things with my friends, but those days are behind me and have been for a while. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Or at least it hasn’t yet.
And then of course there are the days where the pain is especially bad. Those days where you kind of forgot that you were in pain for a while, and then it appears just to remind you that it’s there, and it’s not going anywhere. This is called a flare-up. These days are terrible because they’re just a constant reminder that you’re going to be in pain forever. At least that’s what they’re like for me. On a normal day, I tend to forget that this is my life because I’ve become so accustomed to it, but the days where I’m limping, or can’t move from the bed or the couch tend to be really depressing. You kind of just get used to the hot packs and Netflix, and wait for the flare to be over.
I’m not the person to tell you there’s some magic cure to handling both a chronic illness and a mental illness (or more than one). But, I can say that finding someone, whether that be a family member, a close friend, or a therapist to confide in and talk through what you’re going through can be incredibly healing. I’m also not going to tell you that having someone to talk to makes it all better, but it can help even a little bit when things are particularly bad in your head. Taking that step to talk to a professional has been what’s kept me (for the most part) grounded since being diagnosed with AS one year ago.
Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me either through the comments here or on my Instagram account if you need an ear to listen. I’m more than happy to help anyone who needs it! As for dealing with chronic and mental illness, that’s an obstacle that I, and many others are still dealing with on a very regular basis.