Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 25 & 26

Do you think living with your illness inhibits/harms romantic relationships?

    Unfortunately, as much as it shouldn’t, it does. This is because of people not knowing how to deal with you having had, and possibly having again, severe depression. The things is, you start dating and they only see the healthy you and the true you, but then the point comes where you have to be open and tell them about your struggles because it has been such a big part of your life. One can explain the medical aspect of it very well to them and they understand that and they say that they would never judge you or run from you, but deep down it ends up affecting them more than they care to admit, and I am saying this from experience. Obviously, I have seen, and know of, couples who dealt with it so amazingly no matter how sick the partner may be for a while and so I know some people actually mean what they say and they are brave enough. Brave enough to stand with you in your storms and face them and love you for you. I honestly wish that for myself someday, but so far I have only known the opposite. Two guys I have dated have displayed exactly what I would call cowardism. I remember that I had a mild relapse during the first one and he literally told me he is afraid and doesn’t know how to deal with this and he doesn’t think a future with me would be best for both of us then in case I had more relapses. The other one was my last relationship and it was all, “I love you” until I got admitted and then a week later he dropped me in such a shit way saying he doesn’t think “emotionally he is up for the relationship.” He loved sending hate mails to people who would send him emails of advertisements and so I decided to send him one with many “f*** you for…” sentences repeated in my major anger. The good thing was I never missed him at all because my heart knew he wasn’t worth an ounce of love and missing. 

    I have admired many couples having that resilience and even during my admission I would see husbands visiting their wives and displaying the utmost gentleness. But I won’t sugar coat it and pretend it is that easy. Obviously relationships with one partner suffering from depression and anxiety can be hard on both and not just the ill one. Seeing someone you love in a state you don’t fully understand and can do very little about is hard. Having the person you love struggle to give you back all that joy and energy they previously did is hard. Having the person you love withdraw and start struggling to do anything makes you feel alone. I won’t pretend that both partners aren’t hurting, each in a different way, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t put strain on your relationship. But what I do know is, you’re still very much worth sticking around for because you’re still the same person and this isn’t your forever. Even in the midst of your depression you never stop loving the people closest to you and it isn’t like you suddenly become an invalid. What is important I think is having patience. Don’t get so caught up in the ill person’s manifestations of their illness that you make it everything. What you need to realise is you need to ask them how you can help them and that they need to tell you what they need from you. If they need to cry you don’t always need to try and console them and hold their hand. If they get anxious you just need to be gentle and not get worked up. Take your space and let them have theirs. Also, talk to them. Ask them how they feel and just listen without judgement or sit with them in silence. 

    The point is, everyone has their difficulties in some form or another whether you’re healthy or ill and being in a relationship with someone who has suffered from depression isn’t any less than being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t. The amount of great times you spend together doesn’t become any less and the life you build together isn’t any less beautiful or is made of paper and tape. Being in a relationship with someone like that can actually be one of the strongest. It all comes down to a choice. If you love them enough for who they truly are then it isn’t a difficult choice to make and if you don’t, then leave, because then your relationship was never strong enough anyway and your belief in that person isn’t strong enough. 

    How would/do you feel about having children while dealing with a chronic illness?

    I’ve thought about this a lot. I would love to have children someday. I’ve always wanted to. But I’ve also thought about whether there would be the possibility of me passing on the risk of depression to my children. I would never want that and so I do have these doubts and fears. But also, if I think about the context in which my depression arose, I have to take into consideration that since a very young age I have been exposed to a lot of stress and trauma and I already had the risk of depression and repeated stressful environmental circumstances which played a big role in triggering the manifestations. So I guess one needs to be realistic and consider that there are always multiple factors and risks in anything and everything. Getting pregnant just opens up all those possibilities. Many genetic abnormalities can happen, you can have children with a predisposition to all sorts of illness and harm, yet, you take that risk because you choose to believe in the good it can bring. 

    There is also the issue of being depressed and having to take care of children if you do feel like that and how to not let your depression negatively influence them. I believe one can navigate through that and as they get older let them understand what mental illness is but I would never if I had children let them be exposed to my depressive symptoms and I would fully love and support them and be fully involved in their lives inspite of myself. I know very well that this is possible and not a big issue, as I know the way I am able to draw certain parts of myself out when I need to in certain situations. Say for example I am going through depression but I need to see patients and children at the hospital. I still know how to care for them and make them feel comfortable and be friendly. Also, this may sound like a stupid example to some, but I have two beautiful huskies and I love them so immensely much that my heart cannot comprehend it. During the times I have been depressed and at my worst, it never once changed the way I spoke to them, played with them, sat with them and hugged them. On the contrary, I think it brought me a sense of peace and joy and I believe with one’s kids it would be the same. Even though you struggle through a lot of pain, they are parts of your life that make you hold on and give you that reminder of love and you’d still pour all of yourself into their lives to make sure they’re happy and feel loved too. As they get older they might understand better and it would be easier to start talking to them about it and how it comes about and is managed.

    I’ve also read about and seen many mothers who live with Bipolar or Depression who have children and all I can say is, I truly admire them. Their children have always remained first place and they developed ways of being open with them and explaining to them on a level they would understand. They are incredible mothers. 

    30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 19 & 20

    How do you feel you have been treated by the medical system?

    I feel I have been treated relatively well by the medical system because I am fortunate enough to have a medical aid and receive private healthcare. I’ve always had the option of seeing the Doctor I want and changing if I feel they didn’t help me. Also, the medical aid somewhat assists in covering about half the price of my chronic medication and pays about 21 Psychiatric appointments. The problem though is, when you go inpatient you are only covered for 21 days (which includes those 21 Psychiatrist appointments) and sometimes treatment and becoming more stable takes way more time and I feel perhaps 4 – 6 weeks may be more helpful. Paying privately for a longer period is so incredibly expensive for each day so it’s not possible at all to have that as an option for me and the majority of patients, unless you have a high class income. Public sector mental healthcare in our country is absolutely terrible and I think more traumatising to be there than home. Obviously you get to stay much longer as inpatient but you’re basically locked up in a ward behind metal gates with security and the entire facility is half broken down with paint peeling off the walls. You don’t have the freedom to even leave the ward and there are no group sessions. The people there are also incredibly sick with most having schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. There are of course your bipolar and depressive disorders. But that sector I feel is incredibly neglected by the government. I feel that countries like the UK who had the NHS system in place has much better care and facilities for inpatients. So, I would rather have outpatient care with my private Psychiatrist if my 21 days ran out than ever be admitted to a public hospital. 

    When it comes to my Psychiatrist, I have found her incredibly helpful to me and so amazing in my care. It took about 3 switches between Psychiatrists before I got to her and I am so thankful because she reviewed my condition and finally put me on the right meds. I think what’s also great is that she really listens to how I feel about medications and treatments and never forces things down my throat. I think it’s really important to find a Doctor you feel comfortable with because as much as we’d like to believe all Psychiatrists are capable of the same care, unfortunately many variables come into play. Some have a more stern and controlling personality and some are not as up to date with the newest meds. 

    What do you say to yourself when you need a pep talk?

    I am not very good with giving myself a bunch of positivity mantras or pep talks. They usually feel fake to me and it just doesn’t lift my spirits. So generally, I try to just be graceful with myself. I only avoid cynicism and criticising myself but I don’t generally positive talk. I try to be very realistic and tell myself the facts; that I have had this pain, and probably even worse pain, before and I’ve survived. I’ve gotten to where I am today and I will get to where I need to be. So I try to just breathe and be gentle to myself and take one step at a time, not overthinking. I do what’s good for my soul. I also try mindfulness to teach myself to just focus on the now and the tasks I need to accomplish and so not to sit and ruminate. 

    Chronic Illness Challenge – Day 17 & 18

    How do you feel about the future? Is your life limited in any sense?

    To be honest, I am somewhat afraid of a future with my mental illness. 4 years ago, I would’ve thought I would forever be going on as I did by taking just that one antidepressant and it would be no big deal. Fast forward to now… So many new symptoms developed and with the relapses I got much worse every time. I went from ‘just depression’ to severe depression and anxiety, an eating disorder, borderline personality disorder and more suicide attempts to the point of taking a cocktail of meds. It’s scary to see that you’ve just gotten worse over the years and you need to take more and more precautions to stay healthy, and so, you wonder… How will I be ten years from now? Will I kill myself eventually in one moment of utter, reckless hopelessness? If I somehow manage to get ahead and stay as I am now on the same meds (which I believe I will,) will I ever be accepted and willing to have a romantic relationship? Have children? Because I wonder, what if I decide to have children and they inherit my genes giving them a predisposition to depression. There are many scary possibilities that could happen when you live in such a vulnerable state. So I wouldn’t know what the future looks like. But one also has to be realistic and look at the context of your illness. I got worse for reasons being medication discontinuation, severe prolonged stress with med school and my mom’s death, my anxiety getting out of control making me starve myself and live immensely underweight for 2 years and all these events would’ve obviously had a negative effect on anyone’s mental health if they already had depression in the first place and resulted in further deterioration. Right now, life is not the same. I have learned incredibly much in the management and ability to survive through trial and error and all that happened. I no longer have such incredible anxiety which means I cope with stress much better. I am also on the right combo of medication which has made the world’s difference and it took time for that. I am done with studying Medicine in 8 months and even though it is the toughest part of it, all uphill right now, I’ve come so far that it’s almost certain I will complete it and have a clear career direction fall in place. I have dealt with much trauma that happened over the past 15 years and emotionally and mentally in therapy and I am no longer so profoundly affected by it. Lastly, I also take way better care of my physical health. So basically, I don’t have the same risk factors I had. The future will without doubt have its downs, I am sure. I’m not always going to be one amazing, budding and blooming rose garden. I live with depression which is chronic and which may have its hills and valleys. I know there will be times the monster shows its head, but I have learned more how to control that monster which means my future isn’t dependent on it at all. I have been told by my Doctor of patients who were just as sick as I was, who eventually after 5 years of weaning off meds got off them and was still doing great. So the point is, it’s not a death sentence. I will always be more vulnerable but I am still very much capable. So no, my life isn’t limited in any sense. 

    Have you met anyone with mental illness? Did it help?

    Yes, many! During my admissions to hospital over the years I’ve met quite a few. Since you’re placed in a room with other people it’s kind of hard to not start talking to each other. The thing that I’ve realised about them all is their own unique strength. They each had such a story of how they got to where they were and where they wanted to go in life and even though they were all just as sick, they still held onto hope and of course that inspired me. I am still in contact with a few of them and none of their lives suddenly got easy. Some had relapses again and some struggled so much with medication. Some are mothers and some were just starting out in life. What I love is how we stay in contact and still check in on each other from time to time and never stop caring. Others I have met online and I am just as inspired by them and how they kept going in their battle. I remember one specific woman about my age from Hungary who had started reading my previous blog and emailed me. I think our emails to and fro were an outlet and source of support for both of us and we got to know each other more and became friends. There are also a few others I have met through blogging who shared their stories or just started showing me so much support and still do. Also, reading blogs of other people who also deal with mental illness and seeing how they’ve progressed and following their posts of self-expression, motivation or how they cope has also been of great comfort. I think what makes us sufferers feel so close is that understanding of an unfathomable pain we share and the ability to be completely open when we talk, knowing we won’t be judged and we can let our guard down. I have felt much less alone since I got to know so many such people. 


    Sidenote:

    The heart project to promote mental illness awareness commenced today. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s all at the end of yesterday’s post. So, I joined in and drew my hearts today. 

    And then my dog joined in too…