The unspoken side of having a chronic health condition

Its kind of a taboo subject…..

to me it was….

maybe not everyone….

living with a chronic condition such as brittle asthma and taking medication with awful side effects impacts your life more than just physically. Thats right its effects you mentally as well.

If it was not bad enough you  are often isolated by your disease and have to deal with the impact living you life in limbo the whole time wondering wether or not you will have an asthma attack today or if you will feel well enough to just function you also have to take medication which has side effects which effect you as well.

Im talking about depression.

If i look back I guess I have been suffering with bouts of depression on and off for years. I look back and read my diaries and see I have written entries which indicate depression. The first hint is after a hospital admission where I had had an asthma attack at school (I was at boarding school so didn’t have my parents around and had to go to the school medical centre). I remember the nurse saying I was panicking but later the Dr called an ambulance and I was taken to hospital for a severe asthma attack. This whole episode threw me. I became reclusive and focused on studying instead of interacting socially, I didnt want to participate in sports something which at the time I was very good at. I was the joker of the class but became quiet and studious. I began to resent having asthma. The following couple of years I resented having asthma so much I would not take my medication and would often end up in hospital. It was a vicious cycle. After a very serious attack I started taking my medication again and started to feel better with a short course of counselling- i was told this would boost my mood. I guess it did or I just sorted myself out and figured I had asthma and it wasn’t going away.

Over recent years (well 11-since being diagnosed with Brittle Asthma) I have found I have had more depressive episodes. As slowly but surely asthma has controlled, ruined and taken over my life, I have been isolated from the things I love. My consultants often asked me how I was mentally as the recognised the impact asthma was having on my life and that it would not be easy to cope with. But other than blogging I don’t generally share how I truly feel to people not even those I care most about. I would always tell my Dr’s I was fine and coping ok. 

It was not until being told I was no longer fit enough to do the job I love in October that I accepted I did have some degree of depression. My GP had brought it up several times as she was concerned about me but I always batted the idea away. But in October I went to my GP and told her I thought I had some degree of depression because of everything that was going on. It is the first time I have admitted it and actually asked if I could get medication to help me deal with it. For those that no me well I try to take minimum medication as possible so when I asked me GP for something to help she knew I must be feeling bad because normally she persuades me to add something in.

I had to fill in a questionnaire which asked very probing questions. I was shocked at myself because of some of the answers I gave. Thinking about the whole thing in one go was a huge amount to take in. Depression to me is not in my mind all the time. It effects my mood and rather than being out going I find I have times where I just want to be by myself..I don’t notice it at the time or if i have negative thoughts I don’t always think at the time that these are instances of depression but afterwards I realise that it is unhealthy and not right. 

So anyway I got medication and at first I didn’t think it did anything but took it anyway. I also had counselling. I gradually increased the medication to a point where my GP felt I should be ok However because of other medications etc this caused physical problems with my heart and I have had to stop taking the medication I was on. While taking it I didn’t think it was doing much but since stopping taking it I have noticed how much it must have been helping. I am now looking into different medication which I could try which won’t interact with my asthma stuff. 

So not only does having a chronic condition often cause depression but the medication they give you to help the asthma can cause depression or emphasise it.

I have been on prednisilone on and off for years..more on than off and am now on maintenance. Prednisilone is a drug we all love to hate. It works wonders but comes at a price. It has a list of side effects the length of your arm one being depression. If I could get away with not taking prednisilone I would but its not an option. My lungs need it and they work not too badly when taking the correct dose, but I do find that it can make you depressed…who know how I have no idea but it is a great battle I try to fight to keep myself up beat and know that the pred is helping me so I just need to deal with the depression it causes like I do with the GORD, nausea, muslce pain, thinning bones etc……by taking more tablets!!!!

 

Often in chronic disease individuals think they are weak if they are mentally suffering and finding it difficult to deal with the condition and side effects of drugs but since addressing and looking at why I feel depressed I can see that it is no little thing. Since being diagnosed with brittle asthma this is the list of things that I have had to give up….. my dream career, University, Student Union Development Officer, Playing club and uni football, playing club and uni rugby, 4 holiday jobs, volunteering with MacMillan, living in England, playing lacrosse, running, golf (temporarily), skiing (temporarily), my job. It may seem very trivial but to me these were important things. There are other ways it has effected me like not being able to take part in family events etc continuing with studying, being able to go to  restaurant and have anything I like off the menu. To me asthma is all around me..it consumes me sometimes, i can’t move for it being there and this adds to the isolation which fuels the depression. 

By sharing this I hope other people who have chronic illness can see that being depressed or having depression is not to be ashamed of. It is perfectly understandable when you have no control over the path your life takes because of disease. It controls you despite your best efforts to control it.

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