I wanted to take time to write about an important topic that correlates with my experience dealing with Crohn’s Disease: Mental Health. May is Mental Health Awareness month. Most people may not realize that chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases can potentially lead to mental health issues. People who suffer with a chronic illness, autoimmune disease, or both, are at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, due to the uncertainties and stress of their illness. This finding isn’t an accredited statistic; however, I have come to find that people I’ve met over the years within the IBD community have also encountered anxiety and/or depression. In my personal opinion, I believe that uncertainty surrounding IBD is what leads to mental health issues.
Uncertainty is threatening to our overall well being. The fear of the unknown leads to stress, worry, anxiety, depression, etc. These negative and toxic emotions can lead to an implosion of harm on our bodies, mind and spirit. There is no straightforward method of alleviating uncertainty; however, we can learn to accept it. I know, easier said than done, right? Nevertheless, accepting uncertainty and saying to ourselves, “you know what? It’s OK that I don’t know what’s happening at the present time, or future. I will figure it out as it comes along, and I’ll move forward.” Sometimes we need a little positive push from internal dialog to pull through. This technique of incorporating internal dialog can be conducive for your well being; but there is also a negative approach to internal dialog that can weigh us down. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves at times; and I am sure that most people can relate, whether you are dealing with a diagnosed illness or not.
I tend to internalize a lot, but it’s not because I am ashamed to talk about mental health. I choose to internalize because I don’t want to make my problems someone else’s problem. Internalizing for me consists of overthinking and over analyzing situations that have occurred or have yet to occur. It is a hard-breaking habit that I have endured since I was a child. A lot of our upbringing and childhood experiences shape the way we act, think, and grow as we reach adulthood. I’ve carried the act of internalizing my whole life, and the result has lead me to battling with anxiety. I believe the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease has heightened my anxiety, and my habit of internalizing situations of uncertainty is not beneficial for overall mental health. That is when I realized that I can’t allow myself to shut down due to uncertainties, overthinking, and worrying.
One thing that keeps us from relief of mental health issues is the idea of being vocal, and speaking out about our thoughts, worries, concerns, etc. While positive internal dialog is great, it’s not something that can be attainable each day. We all have our good and bad days, and when times are at their worst, it is nearly impossible to switch the internal dialog from negative to positive. There are other methods to try if talking to someone is not ideal for you: writing, whether it be journaling, blogging, or making mindfulness lists. Meditation works for many people, and I wish it worked for me; but I can be so impatient at times, and I find it challenging to sit still, especially if my mind is racing. Finding the light and humor in situations is another great method to pull through. Whether it’s decompressing and watching a comedy TV show/movie, or watching video clips on YouTube. A little escape from reality is necessary, especially when you’re experiencing a bad day.
If you’re experiencing a bad day where your mind completely takes over, and you can’t find the strength to process anything – or even the strength to move, try to brace through and overcome the anxiousness or depression by reminding yourself that you are enough. Those three words have more power than we know, because we are holding back from allowing ourselves to believe in our worthiness. We are all human. No one is perfect, not anyone of the earth’s 7.4 billion population. Even if someone may look or seem like they have the perfect life, that person may be battling or struggling with something worse than our own. One thing that brings all of the human population together is that we all have our own problems, issues, battles and/or struggles that indeed make us all human.
For the days when you can’t focus, I hope that you find clarity. For the days when you can’t get out of bed, and your body is unable to pull yourself through, I hope that you find the strength to get up and defeat the toxicity that is holding you down. For the days when you can’t think or speak clearly, and your mind shuts down, I hope that you regain resilience within your conscience to calm and ease your mind. Just remember, you are not alone. There is love and support out there that is longing to be embraced. Bravery and perseverance will lead you to understanding your self-worth. This month and everyday: you are enough, always.