Living with physical ailments and chronic health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, sjogrens, spondylitis, fibromyalgia, back pain, and the like can be mentally exhausting, emotionally draining, and, of course, physically excruciating. Perhaps the mental, emotional, and spiritual toll that chronic illness and chronic pain can take is the most overlooked component in the life of a patient.
It is vital that emotional and mental health is managed while living with arthritis or other chronic pain or illness. To neglect the mind and the spirit, and to ignore the impact that these illnesses can take on one’s emotions is a great detriment and can prevent further progress and healing in the journey of health and wellness.
Depression, anxiety, divorce, sleep disorders, and suicide or suicidal thoughts are unfortunately common “side effects” of living with a disability or chronic illness like arthritis. And just like the physical aspects of these illnesses, the intangible symptoms like stress, panic, or feelings of neuroticism or worthlessness are handled better by some patients than others. These feelings are also experienced differently from one patient to the next. Also like physical symptoms, the mental and emotional parts of rheumatic conditions can be treated in a variety of ways.
From talk therapy, to religious counseling, hospital support groups, meditation, journaling, rapid eye movement therapy, energy healing, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, acupuncture, hypnosis, traditional pharmaceutical drugs, and more, there are quite a variety of ways to manage mental illness and emotional issues. Some patients choose to stay natural and holistic; others rely on medications. Many, however, manage mental and emotional problems with an integrated or “combo” approach.
The trick is to find whatever works best for you, and to remember to seek medical or spiritual help or intervention if your emotions become too much for you to handle. And don’t worry about stigma or others viewing you as weak. Dealing with the physical symptoms that you deal with on an everyday basis, you are anything but.
Taking care of your mind, body, AND spirit is the only path to wellness. So please be sure to utilize resources from the Arthritis Foundation and your local doctors to manage your emotional and mental health while living with arthritis or chronic illness. And feel free to check out this (controversial!) past post, The Dark Side of Arthritis.
PS: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255, or head to your local emergency room.
UPDATE: 8/12/14 – Less than an hour after writing and posting this original post yesterday, the heartbreaking news broke that actor, comedian, and do-gooder Robin Williams committed suicide at the age of 63 by hanging himself. The unfortunate irony of the timing of this blog post and this sad loss has not gone unnoticed. Please, to honor Mr. Williams and anyone who has taken their own lives, share the National Suicide Lifeline’s phone number & help to potentially save a life. (image via the National Association of Injured and Disabled Workers.)
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