#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2019

(longest hashtag ever)

This week is mental health awareness week. It officially started yesterday but it was a mega busy day so did not manage to get anything up here although did schedule an instagram live for 7pm tonight @just_TUX for anyone that wants to join. Mental health has always been a bit of a taboo subject and not spoken about but why shouldnt it be. It is as organic as any other disease. It can be diagnosed and treated with medication just like a physical condition is so why is it so taboo. I think it is because it affects behaviour and you should supposedly be able to control behaviours. Not wanting to belittle mental health symptoms but with physical health you cant control a coughing fit in asthma just like you might not be able to stop repetitive activity in someone that has OCD. It comes on out with your control so what is different.

My blog had touched on mental health and how it has impacted my life but I have not explored it in more detail. Living with a chronic physical health condition the Dr’s focus on the physical side of things, the medications and the numbers they don’t tend to spend a lot of time asking about how you are managing mentally. It almost feels like it is out their remit. They are there to treat the asthma exacerbation and get you physically better but it is not until something major happens that they then maybe just maybe take your mental health into consideration.

Today I want to focus on denial, I have spent so long in denial for both my physical health and my mental health. I am getting better at speaking about my mental health but still not very good at it! I can write when I choose too and feel able to publish it here.

For me I have gone through a bit of a rollercoaster with my mental health. Having had such severe asthma for so long and being in denial about how much it was impacting on my life. I wanted everyone to see I was fine, I was pushing my body and my mind to the limit but so many thought it was just asthma or others thought it was just asthma that was bad because I was assumed to be a irresponsible student. I maybe was not always as responsible as I could have been but reflecting back a lot of that I think is me being in denial about how bad my asthma was and how much it was dictating and destroying my life. I often wonder now if I have some input from psychology then how would things have been different.

I have constantly been in and out of hospital with my asthma, from being rushed in with blues and twos to the resuscitation room, even being life flighted from one hospital to another over in Canada, countless intensive care admissions, 4 month long hospital admissions, central lines, blood gases, arterial lines, bed bound, tethered to machines just to live but until 8 years ago I never had any mental health input. Then I had 2 sessions with a psychologist but I cant say it did anything but then 4 years ago I was forced to go to see a psychologist but it has taken a while for it to really be impactful and make a difference to me.

I look back on it now and wonder if I had had psychological input would my health be any different from what it is now. It might not be but I am sure I would have been able to deal with my health and the experiences of it a lot better. In saying this I am not sure wether I would have been in the right frame of mind to accept the help to try and understand my condition. My way of dealing with things was to pretend it didn’t bother me or when dealing with hospital I trained myself to forget about what happened in the hospital. It was the only thing I knew how to manage it. The experiences you go through as a young adult who cant breathe is so humiliating, when you cant go to the toilet yourself or be left alone because your breathing is so bad and your blood pressure plummets it is easiest just to blank it out and forget about it. This I think did not do me any favours. I still find myself relapsing back to those ways as I just cant deal with what’s happening and not feeling strong enough to process it all. It is a work in progress and always will be to try as I try to balance the psychological aspects of living with a physical health condition.

Some aspects of my life I think I am still in denial about my health and how it really effects me. I hope others can read this and know it is normal to be in denial, it is normal to not want to acknowledge how unwell you are or that you’re not having a good day. Its ok to not be ok and its ok to ask for help. Even if you don’t want to talk there are other outlets- I will tell you now punching things are not the way to go about it and only end up with broken bones in your hand so writing I would say is one of the best options. No one has to see it if you don’t want or even just one person that you feel close to or even distant too. Everyone can find an outlet.

Everyone will feel in denial at some point with their health and sometimes we relapse not denial but it is ok. There is help out there. We cannot all be perfect all the time but know that we can come out the denial when we just find the best way that suits us and we are ready to accept our body, our health and our mind.

Out of negative situations there is positives, its just about looking at life in a different way.

Are you your illness/ condition?

Recently in a lot of groups, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram there have been various projects or statement about not being your illness/ condition and not letting it define you. So many people have been jumping on this and saying how they are not their condition, or that their condition is part of them but not who they are.

I’m not sure I agree with this. Asthma has dominated my life and dominated it even more so for the last 11 years. If I was to say I am not my condition or my condition does not define me would be a blatant lie.

I am my asthma and asthma is me. I will never be able to get away from it or have some memory of asthma around me everyday. As terrifying as having asthma is, as life limiting it is I am embracing have it. There are some really rough days where I wish I didnt have asthma. Those days where it is a fight to get every breath and just drinking is a mammoth effort I do wish I didnt have asthma. Then there are the days when having asthma doesn’t inhibit my ability to do anything as long as I take my inhalers, tablets and nebulisers. Those days are great. With the good days come the bad too.

Wishing for a cure is something I do everyday. To have a cure would mean my body is not crippled by side effects from taking prednisilone, my heart rate would drop below 100, I wouldn’t have a constant tremor from relying on short acting beta agonists, going outside I wouldn’t have to worry about what may happen which could provoke an attack, i wouldn’t need to plan my day around medication, I wouldn’t be on first name terms with my pharmacist, I wouldn’t know all the nurses in various respiratory wards around the UK. These are all things I wouldn’t have to do if a cure was found for asthma.

BUT

A cure is not going to come in the near future as nice as it wold be so until then I embrace having asthma. It is me, it is a massive part of my life. I hate it but at the same time having asthma has given me so much to live for. Just by having severe asthma I have done so many things I never would have thought about doing. My life is now defined by having severe asthma. My work was chosen based on my asthma, my volunteering is based on having asthma, my work with the research centre I would not do if I dint have asthma, my involvement in my lacrosse club would not be what it is if I didnt have asthma. I have no idea what my life would be like, Im sure it would be very different but would it be different in a good or bad way? Its a question I can never answer and I don’t want to know the answer.

The only thing I do want just now is to not have so many life threatening attacks which land me in the resus room and weeks in hospital. Those are fights I could do without. I would also love for my consultant to be able to over me different treatments to try and not need to take my case to a group of experts to try and find some kind of treatment to give me some life back.

In all I am my condition. To say Im not would be a lie. But I am proud to be defined by my asthma. Not having asthma I wouldn’t have done all I have. It would be nice for it to be a bit better controlled but in the future it will be.

What I want to say is all those who don’t want to be defined by their condition think about what you have done because you have it which you wouldn’t have done otherwise? Our conditions are part of us. They make us who we are. The stigma around having them is hard but when you embrace it mentally you can deal with it so much better!