mental health Sundays #10 - chronic illness and mental health


“Mental health issues were nothing new to me before I became ill as I turned 15. But from the age of 15, my mental health declined rapidly, a major factor being suffering from M.E. As my physical health declined, I would end up seeing my doctor every 2 weeks, explaining that something wasn’t right and giving lists of my symptoms. Every visit I would be given a similar response, “It’s probably just anxiety and depression, come back in another 2 weeks if you feel worse” and of course, I was back 2 weeks later. These visits planted seeds of doubt in my mind and although I increasingly began to lose the ability to attend school and slowly stopped being able to do the things I enjoyed due to my physical health, I always thought it was my fault - that I had somehow made it all up because of a huge victim complex and I must be seriously mentally unwell. I began to hate myself and my body so much - I began to feel so isolated and scared - that ultimately the man in the doctor’s office practically prophesied my ill mental health into existence. Within a year I had developed severe depression, anxiety and terribly disordered eating.

The reality of how much one’s mental and physical health are so intricately intertwined was lost on me for a long time, until after 2 years of fighting with the medical system I finally got a diagnosis. In that time it had become hard to tell between the mental and physical. Both the mental and physical together took me spiralling down a dark pit that I never thought I’d be able to pull myself out of. Since then I’ve been on a long and personal process of learning about myself, one that will probably never end. Almost 6 years later, I still have to deal with lasting effects, particularly a self-doubt that now tries to permeate every aspect of my life (sometimes I still manage to convince myself that I’ve made up my M.E) and times of severe depression and social anxiety (which really doesn’t help my social life) - but the growing self awareness I have now means I can deal with this stuff in a way I just couldn’t before.

Without ever really being able to access any medical treatment since being diagnosed; I’ve learnt that I have to trust myself. And importantly that if I look after my mental health, naturally, I am far better at managing my physical health. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to access some therapy and continue in the right direction” - anonymous