It’s been a rough week here in Chicago. A recent trip to the ER, increased pain levels and less sunlight have left me depressed. I know that it is a fact of life for those that have fibromyalgia but it doesn’t make it any easier. Chronic pain can take its toll on even the strongest of people. Not only are we dealing with changes to our body and physical health but we are also dealing with changes in our lifestyle that can leave us feeling like we have lost control over part of our life.
It is estimated that 20% of people that live with chronic pain also suffer from depression or anxiety. If you ask me, I think that number is low. Mental illness is not something that you should ever be ashamed of. Think of your body as a whole, co-functioning unit and not just as separate structures in a sack of skin. When treating one part it has a direct effect on the other. So by seeking treatment for depression, you are actually improving the rest of our body as well.
Why mental therapy is important for fibromyalgia sufferers
I can’t express enough about the importance of regular therapy. I started to see a therapist after my miscarriage. I had spent my entire life with that picture in my head that I would find the right man, marry him, buy a house then fill it with kids. I was devastated and lost when I found out that would not be the case for me.
The first therapist that I saw was a younger man with a thick, bushy beard and even thicker glasses. He told me that the only way that I would get better is if I read these articles and answered these questions. He sent me home with a stack of papers and told me to have it all done by the time I saw him again in 2 weeks. I left that day with a questionable view of therapy. He did not make me feel comfortable and the homework was not helpful so I never saw him again.
A month later I called and asked to see a different clinician. I was very nervous about going back. What would we talk about? How do I start a conversation about myself? What if I run out of things to talk about? I walked in and met Mary, my clinical therapist. I am so grateful. She taught me so many things about having a healthy mindset. I feel comfortable talking to her and she is always available when I need her the most. A good therapist will dissolve those fears that you may have about going to therapy.
You should always consider therapy as a work in progress. These are some of the tips that I have learned from therapy and continue to practice to improve my health.
Tips To Deal With Depression
Reframe your thought patterns –
Our minds are constantly thinking of negative things that could happen but they rarely do. Reframing is the action of taking these negative/unhealthy thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. For example, you may think, I am going to have a horrible time bowling because I am in too much pain to roll the ball. Instead you could say, I look forward to going out with my friends and sharing a laugh and if I bowl a couple frames that would be awesome too. We are basically retraining our inner voice to jump to a positive thought instead of jumping to the worst case scenario.
Remember, you shouldn’t chastise yourself for having negative thoughts as negative thoughts are created to protect ourselves from perceived harm. What I recommend is observing your negative thoughts and practice putting a positive spin on them. With time, you will find yourself with a more cheerful attitude.
Journaling is more than the diary you kept in grade school where you shared your latest crush and named your eventual children. Journaling helps you learn more about yourself and track your symptoms.
- Daily tracking of symptoms can identify triggers that are making things worse so you can correct them.
- Provide for positive self-talk and identify pervasive negative thoughts.
- Identify stressors so you can work on resolving them.
- Establish order in chaos when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
- It makes you slow down and breath, like active medication.
There are a few tips to make it a regular habit. Make it easy. I like to type but if you don’t then make sure that you have paper and a pen ready next to a comfy chair. Also, write whatever you want. It’s your journal. There is no judgement in those pages. Also, make it your time and look forward to it. Make a cup a decaf tea, light a candle and go to a quiet corner of the house. Whatever you enjoy doing.
Know that you are doing something good for yourself. Journals are always available, even when therapists and friends are not. Your writing does not have to be perfect. They don’t have to be long, deep, or though provoking paragraphs. You don’t even have to worry about punctuation or spelling if you don’t want too. Just get it down.
Socializing has been shown to directly improve mental health. In fact, there are multiple studies that link the increased use of social media (and thus the decreased actual personal socialization) and the increase incidence of mental health disease. By getting out and building relationships, you will be improving your overall health.
There are plenty of ways to meet people. Use the Meetup app to find local groups in your area that you might be interested in. Take a class at the YMCA. Go to the coffee house and strike up a conversation or head down to a game store and ask to join in the next Dungeon and Dragons game. You don’t even need to get out of bed to receive the benefits of socialization. You can use Skype or Facetime to establish that connection.
Ok, I know what you are thinking. How the hell am I suppose to get exercise when it hurts all over? Well I don’t have a good answer for that. All I can say is try. The more you try, the easier it gets. Even if it is just a walk around the block or taking the stairs, it still counts. I am not going to preach to you about all the benefits of exercise. You already know them and are constantly reminded of them. Just get out and try. Today might be 500 steps, tomorrow shoot for 501.
I wish that we could all move down to where it is warm and sunny but that is not always the case. If you live up north like I do and have not had your vitamin D levels checked then I recommend doing so. If you have already taking vitamin D supplements like I do, then there are a few other things that can help.
- S.A.D. lamp – I use this as soon as October rolls around. 15 minutes a day in the morning is said to improve depression and insomnia symptoms during the winter months.
- Take a 10 minute break outside. The best stuff is our own sun so get outside and get some fresh air. It’s for your health.
- Eat more vitamin D rich foods including fish, shiitake mushrooms and milk.
Depression is a difficult topic to discuss but things will only get better if we talk about it. Mental health awareness is just as important as fibromyalgia awareness and we have an uphill battle with each. Spoonies are masters of disguise but please find someone to open up to.
P.S. Please don’t feel sorry my husband and I. We have built a wonderful life together. We may not have filled our homes with kids but we have filled it with lots of love, memories and 4 legged critters. Peace.