REAL TALK: The biggest realisation I’ve ever had
A few of the things I have learnt in the past year is that 1) invisible illnesses are the worst, 2) your mental state affects your physical.
October 2017, I was diagnosed with one of the undiagnosable, chronic illnesses, called FIbromylagia. It’s been hanging around since I got Glandular Fever and Mycoplasma Pneumonia in 2014. It’s a process of testing you for everything under the sun, eliminating, then prodding you for ‘9 of the 11 muscular tender spots.’ I’ll be honest, having a diagnosis was the hugest relief, but I wasn’t ready to accept the results, and change my life to suit this ‘forever disability.’
When our body runs on survival mode, we can endure more than you’d expect one to. But as soon as you have the specialist sigh and confidently say the three words, ‘you have X,’ the coping and holding your breath for the last 3 years comes crumbling down alongside the exhaustion of researching and adjusting to medication, which’ll take a while to catch a grip on (I haven’t yet and its almost been a year).
This ‘survival mode’ is pretty interesting; We take on a persona of ‘I’m just tired’ or ‘I have a low pain threshold,’ or my regular, ‘I’m having a mental health day’ - Copious white lies to brush off the severity of how we are feeling. Sure, these are all valid reasonings but it’s way easier for the average Joe to comprehend, and less exhausting than explaining what your chronic condition is. There’s also lots of questions that are asked from ‘Is there a cure?’ to the ‘so that’s why you’re always tired?’ to the worst possible statement; ‘why don’t you look sick?’ Hot tip - That’s why it’s called an ‘invisible illness.’
Invisible/chronic illnesses like mine, are only diagnosed by a rheumatologist. Once diagnosed, you see them every 3-6 months. The more regular specialists are the psychiatrist, and the occupational therapist to get the mental health managed. Then we have the physical specialists from exercise physiologist, hydrotherapist, to chiropractor, to physiotherapist, to acupuncturist, and remedial massage therapist. On top of the wonderful (and expensive) team that is playing their part, we also have the GP’s (and a soon-to-be chronic pain management specialist), who write a lot of refill prescriptions and try to tackle the ongoing pain experienced on a daily basis. Out of all of these witnesses to my bursting of tears, and extensive activewear wardrobe, the acupuncturist made the most revolutionary, ground-breaking, relieving statement in my hours upon hours of specialist lounge chairs and yoga mats.
Your mental health and physical health are related.
So, a few months ago when this correlation between my declining physical health with my mental health state, we go way back to 2015, when my immune system was so low, and I was battling off Glandular, I was hit with a trauma which mentally scarred me to the point of my physical body actually disintegrating whilst my psyche challenged to comprehend what I went through. Feeling completely abandoned and silenced, flight or fight, and I ran. Ran away from dealing with the trauma, and got hit with some more. It was the ‘snowball effect.’ Building up momentum, decreasing stability, emotional baggage loading on and growing and growing. Until I hit rock bottom. Like the cliff at the bottom of the hill that shatters the snowball. My physical health limited me from keeping a job, I was in a abusive relationship, and had to face the trauma, whilst ending it altogether (being life) seemed so much easier. In modern medicine, we practice deflecting or compressing trauma rather than processing and releasing it. Interesting enough, there was a huge level of self-acceptance realising that if I can monitor my mental health and find the best way to accept the past and move forward, I may just conquer the physical aspect in a way that I haven’t before.
I did an Instagram poll re: how many people knew this, and a staggering 88% said yes! And a variation of that 88% said they either have a condition/disability from mental health illnesses OR know someone who does. So, with these numbers, how can people potentially be blinded by the possibility that their actions can impact the people around us so dramatically? Surely, if 88% of the people in the communities of my followers, can comprehend that the way they treat the people around them can cause not only harm to other peoples mental health, but to their physical?
Maybe you can join me in transparency of how other actions effect us, have regular conversations about mental health, and don’t wait until #RUOK to come around. Proactive people can create change, and if one person can make adjustments to the culture of people around them because they can see how unhealthy brain stimulation from our surroundings can cause changes in our physical health, then HELL. YES. Someone has received the information that took me almost 4 years to obtain. Go figure.