We are all too aware that fibromyalgia, CFS/ME and depression/anxiety/panic attacks go hand in hand. But the question for me is, why? Well, here are my answers…
We Are Warriors!
For many of us getting a diagnosis alone is an uphill battle. With an average time of 5 years (yes, years!) for a diagnosis we have been through the mill many times. We have battled doctors who tell us it is all in our heads, because all the test results come back as normal. We battle the medications and the side effects, we battle with friends and family in some instances…and then there is the battle of getting financial assistance to survive through insurance and government. So nothing huge!
We Battle for Answers!
But we continue to push and indeed fight for answers in order to get to the bottom of why we are feeling so yuck. We know that what we are going through isn’t ‘right’ – and with no explanations forthcoming from western medicine as to treatment – let alone the root cause – when we finally do get a ‘name’ for our conditions, most of us feel actually relieved to get the answer – and immediately let down to find there’s no real help.
Fighting to get help, get listened to, be believed and taken seriously is not only exhausting…It can be truly soul destroying.
Is It All In My Head?
And worst of all… with no test results, we start to question ourselves. At least I know I did…’maybe this pain and exhaustion isn’t that bad after all?’ For me, this thought tends to happen on a good day, then I overdo it and then I don’t question myself because there is no doubt I am in agony!).
Then there is the experience of going through investigations (if we actually get that far with our doctors…), some rather horrific ones, at that. And then we are also used to being tossed from pillar to post to different specialists…some of which we wait months for before an appointment.
And then…the cherry on the sundae (that is dairy free and sugar free, because we have tried all sorts of different diets to reduce symptoms and many of us are reduced to eating organic lettuce as sustenance), is that our doctors come back with, ‘Nothing is showing on your test results of concern, I suggest you seek psychological help because there’s nothing we can do to help you any further’.
At which point you are ready to lose the plot (if you haven’t long before!) and SCREEEEAMMMMMM!!!!
Recipe for Depression and Anxiety
When the exhaustion and pain gets to be intolerable, ultimately our lives change dramatically. Our social lives tend to go out the window – and when we do say yes, payback tends to be high – and for days. It almost feels at times like being punished for trying to live.
Many of us have had no choice but to give up our work and for most of us, that has created a huge financial issue…meaning increased stress, anxiety and depression.
For most of us we have families to take care of – sometimes young children – where there is no choice in the matter – making pain and exhaustion even more painful and exhausting.
And then there’s all the medication we have tried – some of which can cause mental health issues themselves (even though some are for anxiety and depression!!). Let’s not forget the weight gain many of us experience as well…to just add insult to injury!
I recently requested a print out from my doctor of all the medications I have been on since I have been with the practice. OMG. Pages and pages – single spaced. The morphine. The tramadol. The many different sleep medications. Then there’s the codeine stuff…and all of the medications to battle the side effects of nausea, stomach cramping and pain, indigestion, constipation and itching, to name a few!
Those of us who wind up trying the medication route find that we are rattling when we walk we are so full of medications…let alone being able to think straight!
Things We Never Gave a Second Thought To…
Things that we love to do or did without a second thought become difficult or not even possible…I know when I had to stop crocheting because my hands went numb within seconds, that it was like someone took yet another chunk of what little enjoyment I was having in my life away. Something to distract me from pain was now causing me pain and discomfort. And it sucked/s!
Waving Goodbye to Family and Friends…
Some of us have sadly gone through the stress of losing family and friends because of our illness. (Although, I fully believe that if this is the case, then they weren’t the ‘right’ people to have in our lives to begin with…).
I always say, ‘nobody will ever understand you – they may have knowledge, but they are not you – you are unique unto yourself’. (In fact, I wrote a blog about it here).
Insomnia, Depression and Anxiety
…and then there are our sleep issues…where to start! We know that when we are sleep deprived we get into silly accidents because our cognitive awareness is out the window, let alone the ability to think clearly and make cohesive decisions.
But did you know that insomnia also increases our risk of depression and anxiety?
Let’s face it – when we don’t get a good night’s sleep…it affects not only our bodies but our minds, as well.
Insomnia also attributes hugely to brain fog…the more tired I am, the worse I am for stringing sentences that make sense…losing words, train of thought, concentration, easily distracted…If you are reading this, I am sure you know these issues very well! (I can assure you writing these blogs is a feat unto themselves with brain fog!).
Ok, so here are just a FEW things that can attribute to depression and anxiety for us fibro and CFS/ME peeps:
- Fighting to get a diagnosis – which can take up to 5 years; a variety of specialists and few answers/help at the end of it all
- Fighting for our medical professionals, family and friends to believe us
- We are told it’s all in our heads and to seek psychological help
- Medications and their side effects – some that can affect mental health negatively
- Huge shift in life’s circumstances, including financial stress
- Inability to do many things we never gave a second thought to
- Losing friends and family
- Not believing that we are actually ill and putting more pressure on ourselves to do stuff (that makes us experience more pain/exhuastion).
…and many other things (please feel free to add your own experiences in the comment section!).
Add these things and more all add up and…
No wonder we feel crap mentally (on top of physically)!
So, What Can We Do About It?
I was taught years ago to ‘not present a problem without a solution’. And this is a pretty big mountain of problems facing us. I certainly don’t wish to dismiss any of these issues lightly with an offhanded, ‘just do this and all will be just fine’. Depression and anxiety can affect our lives hugely and negatively and if you are struggling, please, please ask for help.
For me, I started living my life differently in regards to my mental attitude with, well, everything. It is a long haul – but just catching myself when I have negative or unloving thoughts allows me to make a change immediately by replacing these thoughts.
I also started doing things more for ME. Including the willingness to try new things to help my pain and sleep – as well as reducing/kicking out most of my medications (and have honestly noticed ZERO difference in pain levels and my sleep has actually IMPROVED in doing this.
If you are interested my top tips in living a happier, mentally healthier lifewith fibromyalgia, CFS/ME click here.
Summing it Up
Well, I think that this blog certainly summed it up in my mind all in one spot as to why so many of us with fibromyalgia, CFS/ME struggle with depression and anxiety! We have a huge amount to contend with…and…we do. WE ARE WARRIORS! Never forget that. Please join us on our Facebook Community Page for hints, tips, research, interesting news, fun stuff and more. Know you aren’t alone in this!