Don’t Ignore Your Mental Health
Concern for mental health and emotional well-being is often overlooked and brushed aside when it comes to treating Crohn’s Disease. It’s not something that most GIs address. They tend to focus primarily on the physical symptoms. As a result, mental health is often overlooked when managing Crohn’s. This leaves many patients to suffer silently, unaware that there are options available that can help them feel better.
Some patients are even convinced that emotional distress is just a normal part of living with Crohn’s that cannot be changed. I used to believe that. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot over the last few years and I’ve come to realize that is not the case!
The first step to improving your mental health sounds simple: be aware of your emotions
You have to recognize the problem before you can try to fix it. One way to do this is to monitor your feelings like you would any other symptom. Notice changes and fluctuations that take place in your emotional state. This may be something we do automatically on a daily basis, but the problem is we don’t always pay close enough attention. As a result, it can be hard to notice depression creeping in until you’re in the thick of it.
If you realize that if you are experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression, know that it’s not something you simply have to grin and bear. In fact, the worst thing you can do is ignore these feelings.
Don’t make the same mistake that I did
I waited too long to admit how deep I had fallen into depression, and it was hard to climb out of that hole. It took me a long time, longer than I wish it would have, to realize I needed to be proactive in managing my mental health and emotional well-being. In the beginning, I was naïve and in denial. I refused to acknowledge any negative emotions I was feeling. I wanted so desperately to still be “normal,” so I pushed my feelings deep down, pasted a smile on my face, and pretended like I was fine. I assumed the feelings would eventually fade and I would bounce back on my own. Obviously, that didn’t work. Before long, the façade began to crack, the feelings became too much to ignore and I found myself in a deep depression.
After that, I lost sight of the light for a very long time. I let the negative emotions control me and completely take over my life. It was like I had lost the ability to see clearly. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was miserable, in pain, and wanted to give up. Feeling defeated and helpless, I gave up hope of any chance of ever getting better. Even though I felt this way, for some reason I still refused to acknowledge that I needed help.
Being stubborn and ignorant, I was of the mindset that depression was something you could just “snap out of.” I convinced myself that seeking help from a professional was pointless, it wouldn’t help anything. On top of that, I thought it made you weak. I was too embarrassed and prideful to admit that I was sinking, quickly, and desperately needed someone to guide me to safety.
I needed help
It wasn’t until I finally broke down and opened my eyes to what I had tried so hard to avoid, that I realized something needed to change. I had to do something about the way I was feeling because I couldn’t continue the way I was going for very much longer. The depression had gone on for so long, the feelings becoming so familiar, that it almost took be my surprise when I finally realized that how I was feeling wasn’t normal, wasn’t okay, and wasn’t letting up any time soon. I had to do something.
After this moment of clarity, I took another step in the right direction. I reached out for help, in more than one way, and after a while, I was surprised to find myself actually getting better. It wasn’t immediate or anything, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. After reaching out, it hit me that there’s nothing weak about seeking help with battling depression and other mental health issues. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
It takes a strong person to admit they are struggling and need help, and an even stronger person to take action and fight back
Even though I’ve slipped into the darkness on more than one occasion, with help and the right tools, I’ve always managed to get back to a happy place. By going through these dark periods, I’ve learned that there are different things that can be done to help lift you back into the light. The first step to getting better is to become aware of your emotions. Be conscious of how you are feeling, and don’t ignore the warning signs. By noticing when you are sinking, it gives you the opportunity to reach out for a lifeline, sooner rather than later.
I know it can be scary and even embarrassing to talk about, especially at first, but staying silent is so much worse in the long run. Trust me, I learned that the hard way. Very rarely will depression and anxiety clear up on its own. Be brave, face it head on, and know that there is support and help available. You are not alone.