Life can be a struggle for anyone. But when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, it can sometimes seem unbearable. And often, managing the mental health aspect of a chronic illness can be just as important as the physical aspect.
After all, the mental health struggles that people with fibromyalgia endure can have tragic consequences. And while fibromyalgia itself can’t kill you, the mental toll it takes can. Suicide rates for people with fibromyalgia are far higher than average.
So clearly, taking charge of your mental well-being is important if you’re suffering from fibromyalgia. But how do you manage your mental health when you’re suffering from such a terrible disease?
MANAGING MENTAL HEALTH WHEN YOU HAVE FIBROMYALGIA
First, let’s admit that it’s totally understandable that people with fibro would feel depressed. Usually, we think of depression as something that people suffer from with no obvious cause. And that is often the case. Depression can be caused by many things, including an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that leads to long-term depression even when events in your life are generally going well.
And many people with fibromyalgia may have this kind of depression. But there’s also another form of depression that is likely common in people with fibromyalgia. The most familiar term for it is “situational depression.” Put simply, it’s a form of depression caused by a reaction to events in your life.
And when you consider what someone with fibromyalgia goes through on a daily basis, it would be surprising if they didn’t experience this kind of depression sometimes. They have a reason to be depressed when they’re in chronic pain.
The truth is, of course, that while there are ways to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, there’s no way to get rid of them completely. Instead, people with fibromyalgia have to find ways to maintain their mental health in spite of them.
It’s not an easy answer. And in an age where there seems to be a pill for just about anything, the idea that the medical community can’t cure you can be a hard thing to accept. But it’s something that everyone with fibromyalgia comes to understand early on.
However, one of the hardest parts of living with fibromyalgia is that sometimes people around you expect you to “get over it,” or they offer up some advice about how you can cure yourself with some bogus remedy. It sometimes seems like the one thing no one wants to accept is that the people in their lives with fibromyalgia are really suffering and that they can’t do much about it.
The first step to improving your mental health is to realize that it is ok to be depressed. It isn’t your fault, and you don’t have to hide how much you’re suffering from others to make their lives easier. If you’re in chronic pain, you’re going to be depressed about it sometimes. It’s a natural reaction to the situation you’re in. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it, including yourself.
After all, people who don’t have fibromyalgia can’t truly understand what you’re going through. And if they were in your position, they would be going through the same emotions. They have no right to make you feel bad about the fact that you’re suffering.
At the same time, the people who manage fibromyalgia best are those who realize that, at a certain point, they need to take charge of their own health. There simply isn’t another way to do it. And the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to improve your mental health when you have fibromyalgia.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH
There’s no cure for fibromyalgia yet. So you won’t be able to completely fix the things in your life that are making you depressed. But you can do some things to make them better. And if that sounds daunting, remember that you don’t have to do it alone.
For example, one of the most common issues that people with fibromyalgia suffer from is that they don’t feel like their medications are working. And the fact is that sometimes, they don’t. There are few drugs designed specifically to treat fibromyalgia, which means that doctors often prescribe drugs for other conditions like depression to treat the condition. And these work differently for different people.
If the drugs you’re taking aren’t working, tell your doctor. It may be as simple as trying new medications until you find one that works for you.
But it might also be a good idea to try another doctor. Treating fibromyalgia sometimes requires a doctor who specializes in the condition, so consider researching doctors in your area who have experience treating fibromyalgia. Or you might try a chronic pain clinic, where the healthcare professionals on staff may have more experience treating chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.
Of course, there are times when the physical symptoms of fibromyalgia aren’t the only problems you’re facing. Fibromyalgia can take a toll on your relationships with friends or loved ones, and it can make it hard to work, which leads to a host of financial stresses.
Luckily, there are professionals who specialize in dealing with these problems as well. If you are worried that your relationship with a spouse is suffering, consider seeing a marriage counselor. They can help you work through some of the issues that you might be facing.
If managing your responsibilities at work or trying to find a job is getting you down, consider seeing an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists work with people who have chronic health conditions to find jobs that will work around their health issues and provide therapies that can help them rejoin the workforce.
Often, one of the best ways to manage depression caused by fibromyalgia is exercise. Of course, if you’ve had fibromyalgia for a while, you’re probably tired of hearing this advice. After all, it’s hard to exercise when you’re constantly tired and in pain and the effort can make your symptoms worse.
That’s completely understandable. But there’s a lot of evidence that even light exercise can significantly improve fibromyalgia symptoms and mental health. Start slow, with a short walk. Build up to more advanced forms of exercise. Or try another, low impact alternative like yoga.
Again, consider working with a professional therapist who has experience helping people with chronic conditions exercise and develop a healthy diet. They’ll be able to give you advice on your situation.
A large part of managing your mental health when you have fibromyalgia is seeking out the people who can help you and learn to deal with the people who just make your life worse.
Most of all, you’re struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, talk to a mental health professional. It’s not a situation you should try to manage on your own.