Confessions of the Chronically Ill

Co-Written by myself & contributor Amy Nora

When you have a chronic illness like Lupus there are going to be some thing’s that you hold true. Things that you don’t share with most people, things that you know most people don’t want to know, or simply wouldn’t understand. Things that you feel people who aren’t sick would never understand. So as we have come to an end of the 2018 Lupus Awareness Month, I want to share some confessions from the chronically ill. Remember they might not be true for all chronically ill. This is based of the experiences/issues we have and deal with.

1. I often feel guilty — Some of you are probably wondering why we would feel guilty. Well, there are a MILLION different reasons. We may feel guilty that we can’t contribute to our families like we want to. Or we might feel guilty because we feel like we are a burden to our family and friends. Or because of the constants needs or help for basic daily life we need to ask of others. There are a million reasons why we might feel guilty.

2. I feel like I’m alone — Again you may be wondering how we could feel alone when we have friends and family all around us. Well, that’s simple, we may have people around us but they don’t know the struggles we face everyday. So it’s not so much that we may feel alone physically, it’s more mentally and emotionally. Because most family and friends don’t know what it’s like to live our lives, and they can never truly understand our world.  We try and protect them from what we go through, because as much as what we deal with, we also know that they feel a stress.  This can intensify a lonliness.  It creates a vicious cycle.

3. I often experience some level of anxiety and depression — There are so many reasons we may feel this way. We could be anxious because we aren’t feeling well and there’s nothing we can do about. Or because there is something coming up that we aren’t sure we have the energy or stamina for. On the other hand we could be depressed because we had to cancel ANOTHER date with a friend or our spouse. We might also be down because we feel terrible and have for awhile. That takes a toll on your mental health.  The very nature of having a chronic illness creates a constant mental battle that is medically known to alter brain chemistry.

4. I am almost always in pain — Even though you know I have pain medicine and have taken it. I am generally always hurting somewhere. NO, it’s not searing, burning level 10 pain. It’s more like a constant nagging annoying pain. Like a level 3 Pain. But it’s usually constant. And chances are I won’t say a word, and will often say “I’m fine” when asked.  Just remember, your fine and my fine are not the same.  Sometime ask, “No, how are you really doing today?  I want to know.  What can I do that would help you?”  When in pain and tired, these words are a balm physically and mentally.

5. Every good day is truly a gift —Sadly, we don’t always have a LOT of GOOD days. So when I do I may need help remembering that this day is a gift and I should take full advantage of it.  Do not make me feel guilty for having a good day, do not take my joy for this good day.  I may have to pay for this good day for a week to come or a few days in bed or on the couch with pain, fatigue, or any combo of problems including infections.

6. I don’t look sick — Nine Times out of ten you wouldn’t know by looking at us that we are sick. That our bodies are constantly at war with itself. We just look like average people on the outside, but inside we may be a disaster. Going out in public knowing that others can’t see our illness can lead to feeling alone, or being anxious.

7. I am often afraid to work, make plans or have a life — I know this one sounds silly. Why would anyone be afraid of those things? It’s simply because we never know what our body is going to do. I may feel fine at 8am, but at 11am I may feel like I was hit by a bus. Our bodies change so quickly and often without reason. So we never know if we make a dinner plan for next Wednesday how we will feel.  Every plan is made with the caveat of, “If I feel okay,” and buying tickets for an event is a terrifying exercise in wasting money and letting friends down.

8. Not all doctors understand — Sadly, this is the case a lot of the time. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a doctor who’s not my own and they know nothing about Lupus or how it impacts a person’s life, body & health.  The American Medical Association even acknowledges that auto-immune diseases are one of the most under taught areas in medical school because of their complexity.  More times then not, as the patient you are educating the provider when you are already ill.  At best, they believe you and do some additional research quickly to understand.  At the worst, they do not listen and make medical decisions that do not help you are your condition because they do not understand fully how Lupus impacts you.  Remember, Lupus effects each patient differently.This is just a few confessions of the chronically ill. I could probably write a book on things we feel but never share. We don’t want pity so we often keep our issues to ourselves. We don’t want to be judged or looked down upon because of our health.  What we do want is for people to understand.  Just this week, Toni Braxton tweeted a picture of herself, and people were quick to make a judgement that she had plastic surgery.  No, she is on steroids for her Lupus.  Know Lupus.  Know that we deal with our body attacking us on a daily basis, and that no two cases are the same.  Know that we keep our secrets to protect you, but know those come at a cost.  So today…. We let a few cats out of the bag.

With Love,

Amber & Amy

Depression….5 Tips for Overcoming

Depression is real! Not just for those who are chronically ill but also for those who aren’t! This time of year is especially bad for depression because it’s cold and you don’t want to go out. And if you are chronically ill you don’t get to go out as often because of all the cold and flu going around. Especially this year with the flu shot being approximated to be only 10% effective. So what can we do to handle depression in the winter months that doesn’t involve medication. Let’s look at a few options.

1. Find and stick to a daily routine– This is so important especially for those of us who are not working. The days run together and you don’t know what day it is or even what time of day it is! So finding a routine that you can stick to everyday will help keep your days less blah.

2. Set Goals– When you are depressed you feel like you can’t get anything done. So set small goals for yourself EVERYDAY!! Some that you know you can accomplish and mark off this list. I don’t know about you but for me I love being able to cross things off a list. There is such a feeling of accomplishment. (For information on how to set goals see my previous post on goal setting)

3. Exercise – To many spoonies this is the most annoying topic to discuss at a drs appts. When you feel like crap the last thing you want to do is exercise. But it’s proven that exercise releases endorphins (the feel good chemical), and it will make you feel better. Even if you can just get in 10 min two or three times a week. And it doesn’t have to be some great big workout with weights and sprints. Just walking around the block or doing yoga is plenty. Just something to get that heart pumping.

4. Take on some kind of responsibility– I know from experience that the last thing you want to do when you are depressed is commit to anything. But especially for those who aren’t working or going to school this one is important. Try and take on something like cooking meals for your family one or two nights a week. Or find some place to volunteer a couple days a month. Much like setting goals if you you can accomplish something it will make you feel better overall and help to counter the depression.

5. Try to have fun– When you are depressed usually the last thing you want to do is stop sulking and have fun. But try anyway. If you enjoy reading pick up a new book, if you’re a movie person go see the movie that you’ve been wanting to see. If your favorite things still don’t seem fun just keep trying. Eventually you will get out of that rut!

Depression is hard and frustrating. And something that everyone deals with at some point. But there are ways to fight depression other than medications. If those non-pharmacological methods don’t work it might be time to talk to your doctor. There is nothing wrong with taking medication if you need it and don’t let anyone make you feel that way if you need to go that direction. These are just a few ways to help fight depression, there are tons of options and books you can read on the matter. Because one option isn’t going to work for everyone. If you feel like you are slipping to far it’s okay to reach out for help from a friend or family member. Remember, depression sucks but it is only temporary!

The Things We Should Never Take For Granted

Have you ever really stopped to think about all the things you do, places you go, activities you participate in on any given day or week?!? Okay so now you are thinking. Now make a list, list everything you do that takes physical ability, everything you do that, which allows you to have freedom (leaving the house on your own, whether it be on foot, on a bicycle or by car). And everything that requires mental capabilities! Now you think I’m crazy. But my point is that we do things all day that we take for granted. Things that not everyone have the ability or freedom to do.

All day, everyday we do things that we take for granted. We get out of bed and walk to the bathroom, we eat food, we have a normal conversation with our families and thousands of other tasks. Now think about how you would feel and what you would do if you were unable to do those things as easily as you do them now! What if you were no longer able to easily carry on a normal conversation, because your brain is “foggy” and your thoughts are easily jumbled? Which in turn causes people to start to question your mental capabilities. How would this make you feel? This is something we all take for granted! And I never thought about until I developed Lupus, Fibromyalgia and Migraines, all which can cause brain fog and make it hard for me to carry on a normal conversation at times. Due to those conditions I may randomly lose my train of thought mid sentence, or have no idea where I was going with what I was saying. This alone can effect my daily life. But also impacts my ability to work because employers want nurses who are on the ball mentally. Not one who is forgetful, and easily loses their train of thought.

What would you do if you lost your ability to drive? You no longer could just run out and jump in the car and run to the store or to grab food. How would this change your life? Well, let me tell you how it’s changed mine! Since I totaled my car in August & it is thought that seizures were the cause of the accident, I can’t drive again until I have been seizure free for 6 months. Never, until now, did I think about all the things I would just jump in the car and “run” to do. I can no longer take myself to the doctor, to the grocery story, the bank, to go grab some food, or even just to go for a drive to think!! This has had a major impact on my psyche. And caused some major depression and anxiety issues. It has also really made me question my self worth since i can’t drive a car, I can’t work outside the home and I’m living at my parents at the age of 32 due to lack of steady income. All of those are hard pills to swallow on their own, but combine them and times can be very difficult. Things get really hard when you are stuck staring at the same walls day in and day out! Just imagine one day you are a functioning member of society, working outside the home. Who is able to drive and go wherever whenever, to the next day having no car and not being able to drive at all. Definitely a major life change that is hard to accept and one you (or I ) never expected.

The things we take for granted don’t have to be as drastic as the things I’ve talked about so far. They can be something as simple as getting out of bed pain free. Most people wouldn’t even think about this. But those of us who deal with chronic pain never take a day when we can get out of bed pain free for granted. That is because the pain free days are so rare, that when we it happens we rejoice and enjoy it. Some people who battle chronic illness will even lose the ability to do the little things we have done by ourselves for years. Tasks like bathing, toileting or feeding themselves may no longer be possible. How would you feel if you had to suddenly rely on someone to help you bathe or change clothes or even help you get to the bathroom? Would this change the way you look at life? Would this change how you felt about your self worth? It certainly can. It’s hard at any age to ask for or accept help from others. But you get to a point when you have to. You don’t have a choice. No matter how awful it is and how bad it makes you feel sometimes you have to accept that you are no longer able to safely function by yourself.

A person never thinks about all the things we do in a day that we take advantage of, that is until they can no longer do those things.  We are just so used to running out and jumping in the car and running wherever errand or completing whatever task needs to be done. We don’t think about how lucky we are to be able to run to the store, to the gas station or to the pharmacy. Or have the ability to leave the house without someone with you. I guess the point I’m trying to get across with all of this is that we need to pay attention in life, and make sure that we are living each day to fullest and not taking anything for granted. We should be living our life knowing full well that tomorrow our lives could drastically change for the worst. And that we could lose the ability to do the things we take for granted on a daily basis!

With Love,

Amber

The Grass is Always Greener 

You know the saying you’ve heard since you were a kid “The grass is always greener on the other side?” Well, I’ve realized in the past few months that this applies to more than just cows wanting to eat from the other side of the fence. That there really is more to it!! It definitely applies to working in the home vs working outside if the home. It seems like those that get to stay home or work from home want to work outside the home, and those outside the home want to be at home.  It’s a never ending battle. 

Once I graduated with my Nursing degree in 2007 I assumed I would work in some way up until retirement. I thought I might want to go part time at some point when I had babies. But I never thought that at ten years after graduation, at the age of 32,  I would no longer be working at all. Well, not at least outside of the medical field. But it’s happened!!!!!! I am no longer working as a nurse. But as an Indeoendant Distributor for a cosmetic company. Basically an MLM. It does bring in a little money and I am so very grateful to have found something that I can do from home. Heck, I can even do it in my jammies from my bed. However, this is definitely not where I saw my life going ten years ago. 

However, I know that I am not alone in saying it’s totally different when you choose to stay home with babies or your family. Then it is when are forced out of the workforce due to an illness or disability. Since the end of August I have had to stay home due to illness. I lost my job after totaling my car in a accident where it is likely that I had either a seizure or a cardiac event! The accident was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. I had missed more days than any other employer would have allowed. And this company was so gracious to work with me and did everything they could not to let me go but after the accident it was clear it was just what had to be. At first after losing my job it was kind of nice to be home, to not have to get up to an alarm or get dressed up everyday. However, that lasted about two weeks, and then I was bored out of my mind. 

I can’t tell you though the number of times, those of us who are unable to work and have to stay home due to illness or disability, hear how nice it must be to be able to stay home and not have to work.  What people don’t understand is that there is a large population of us who have been forced out of the work force would give ANYTHING to get back to work!!! And it’s not by any means that we don’t HAVE to work. It’s not like we chose to retire and are now happily traveling the world and getting to spend time with family.  Most of us who were forced out of our jobs by our health are doing quite the opposite. We are stuck at home, usually leaving mostly just to attend a multitude of drs appointments, go to the grocery store or maybe church. If we are lucky we might find enough get up and go to go out to lunch or dinner with friends or family. But usually those plans get rescheduled because of how we are feeling!!  So we are NOT living the life. 

I would give anything to go back to work. To be able to go back to working the Cardiovascular Step Down unit wher I worked the majority of the time before I left as a Charge Nurse. This was what I loved. I loved the kind of  patients we worked with, the body system we were working with and really most things about my job!! But then the Lupus monster hit!!! I could no longer physically meet the demands of that job. So it was time to move on to things less physically demanding. Since the Summer of 2012  I have worked several jobs,  but none of them were what I loved. And over the years my health continued to deteriorate to the point where I was calling in more than I was actually working due to migraines and pain and constant illness. So I was no good to any employer or fellow employees at this point due to my Lupus, migraines and adrenal insufficiency!  

What people don’t take into account is the risk for increased rates of depression when people are no longer able to work for whatever reason. Now that person may no longer have an income or a very small one, so that puts a huge stress on the person as well as the family. Due to the loss of job  they may have lost their health insurance. And this is really not an option for those with chronic disabiling diseases. Without insurance we could potentially get stuck with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical bills that you gave no idea how you were going to pay them. Or if they can get government insurance it may be to pricey for them to get!!. There is also the potential for lack of adult face to face conversation and a potential loss of friends all related to the disease and the the job loss. Both of which can also cause or deepen a person’s depression. 

I looked up some statistics on the Buteau of Labor Statistics Page. Per their site, “Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability.” And that’s a median number. I know many people who only receive -$500-$1000 a MONTH in social security that they are expected to live off!! I also found this statistic that I found interesting.  “Only 17.9% of persons with a disability were employed.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau “Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports Report. 
About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Those statistics were not imperative to include but I thought it was a good look at just how many people are disabled in the United States. For me the take away of this blog would be that most people aren’t happy where they are. If they have to work to provide they wish they could be home with their families. While those of us who can’t work would give anything to get back into the workforce! I also want to people to understand that many of us who are disabled don’t want to stay home and not work. We would love to return to the careers we went to college for and loved. Not all people on disability are just living off the system and not working because they can. Personally, I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO BE ABLE TO WORK AGAIN outside the home. 

I hope this gave you some insight!

Amber  
References:

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm

Working From Home…,,

Okay so I don’t have a “real” job anymore thanks to my Health. But honestly, what is a “real” job anyway?  Is it real because you have to get dressed, do your hair and look presentable? Is it real because you actually leave the house to do said job? Is it real because you have coworkers that you interact with in person, or because you have an office?  All those things don’t make a job “real.”  They are just things that happen when you have a job OUTSIDE the home.  So does working INSIDE the home make it any less real?!?  Not in my opinion. If you stil get paid and get the requirments met for your specific job it shouldn’t matter where you work. 

According to the Nee York Times last alone nearly 43% of employed Americans were working from home at least part of the time. So now you are probably thinking “Man I need to be one of those people!  But what kind of jobs allow one to work from home?”  Well according to the same article the following industries allow work from home. 

Finance/insurance/real estate, Transportation, Manufacturing or construction, Retail, Healthcare, Computer/information, systems/mathematical, Law or public policy, Arts/design/entertainment/ sports/media, Community/social services, Science/engineering/ architecture, Education/training/library 

Working from home sounds all wonderful and grand.  But it to has its fair share of downsides as well.  The biggest downside  being how easy it is to get distracted when your in your own home. Where the dryer may buzz or the dishwasher ding. Or that show you’ve been trying to catch is finally on when you can catch it.  And if you are a parent you may not have a babysitter on the days you are at home. So you may have children climbing on you, asking for food or a drink, needing a diaper changed. Etc.  Sure you think oh if I was working from home I wouldn’t let myself get distracted but that’s much easier said than done. 

Many say being a Stay at home MOM isn’t a job. But it’s a FULL TIME job in my eyes. When you are meeting every need of you child/children and your spouse. While keeping a clean house, cooking dinner, doing laundry and doing all the things that need to be done in the house. You are busy ALL the time. You may not get paid financially, but in hugs, slobbery kisses and I love you’s for the kids. In my mind having never been a mom those positive affirmations and love from your kids and spouse is just like a pay check (minus The money of course). That being said being a stay at home mom is in my eyes a full time job!!!!

I suppose selling Senegence/Lipsense via social media, co-managing an online chronic illness support group and  blogging are not considered working to some. But the cosmetic company is what pays my bills.  Since my accident I really haven’t been cleared to work and have no means to get to an outside job currently.  Due to the fact that I can no longer drive, and shouldn’t be walking long distances on my own. So I had to get creative. I had to find a way to pay the important bills.  Do I get the luxuries now that I did when I worked outside the home? Absolutely not! But I have the enssnetials and that’s what matters. 

The other bonus to working the jobs I do  are simple. I can rest when I need to and for as long as I need to. Because I am often totally exhausted and need to sleep a LOT. If for some reason I am hospitalized (which seems to happen at least 3-4x annually for me) my work will wait for me till I am better. And as corny as if may sound, One of the biggest benefits I’ve found is that I have found a true sisterhood with Senegence, unlike any other company I’ve worked for. The are so sweet and have the biggest hearts and will always help when I need it. It’s truly like anything I’ve ever experienced. 

Do I, or am I able to work everyday? NO, absolutely not.   There may be days or weeks when I don’t work. And that’s okay!! Because my health comes first. And some days I may only work an hour or less because I feel poorly. And that’s okay too. My senesister will make sure by business doesn’t suffer. My co/administrators will make sure the support group continues along without issue. And my blog….. well if I haven’t written in advance it will wait patiently until I return. 

Yes, working any job from home has its benefits but there are also disadvantages. What could they possibly be you are probably thinking.  To me the biggest disadvantage is that  you don’t have the daily interaction with people right in front of you like you do when working out of the home. You don’t have that comraderie that you build with your coworkers when you have a job outside the home.  And you may feel lonely or even depressed. There is a big difference in talking to people and building that team relationship in person as opposed to over the phone or internet. And you don’t get that a lot of one-on-one personal interaction when working from home. Simply because most of your communication is over the phone or internet.  But sadly, that’s just something you have to get used to when you are no longer able to work outside the home. 

Working in the home had its advantages and disadvantages like described above. And it’s not for everyone. But once you’ve lost the ability to work outside the home due to issues like health issues,  and still have bills to pay, you have to get creative. And you may even find yourself doing something you never thought you would. That being said working for Senegence has been such a blessing, even though it’s something I never thought I would do. When I was working outside the home, I signed up with Senegence just to get a discount off products. But then ended up needing an income of some kind and this fell in my lap. I would highly highly recommend any lady (or man) who enjoys or has a passion for makeup, and needs any level of income to look into Senegence. It’s not your typical MLM( if it was I wouldn’t be working for them) they treat everyone so great and they are not afraid to let it known that everyone could have a 5 figure monthly income if they work work their business right!  I am far from that and probably won’t ever get there, but I am just so glad I found this opportunity so I can work From home. 

Amber 
References:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/us/remote-workers-work-from-home.html

My Senegence Page: https://m.facebook.com/groups/1426452860768009?ref=bookmarks

Senegence home page; https://www.senegence.com/SeneSite/Home.aspx

Support Group: Lupie Groupies on Facebook!

The Real Story- Depression and Suicide

Suicide and depression are topics that no one wants to talk about. But they real. And it’s something we need to spread awareness about.  As well as spread awareness on how people can get help when they feel like suicide is their only option.  According to the CDC there were nearly 43,000 suicides  in the US in 2014 and nearly 1.3 million suicide attempts. That averages out to avoid 113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes!  That same year suicide was the 10th leading cause of death.  That number is very shocking! 

Depression, which is often times a contributing condition to suicide affects a large part of the population. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America there are about 15 million adults affected by depression in 2016. That 15million is about 6.7 percent of the population of those over 18 years of age. That is a HUGE number. Think of all the people you know, now think about how many of those people have admitted they do or have suffered from depression.  I would take a guess that you can’t think of more than a handful who have actually admitted it.  While looking at statistic it’s found that people who suffer from a chronic illness has a much high orevelance for depression than the average person.  The question is why is such a huge problem something that so few will talk about!??

Patients with chronic medical illnesses have been found to have two- to threefold higher rates of major depression compared with age- and gender-matched primary care patients.Rates of depression in primary care patients are between 5% and 10 %,8 whereas prevalence rates of depression in patients with diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD) have been estimated to be 12% to 18% and 15% to 23% respectively. (8)

People who suffer from depression may be seen as funny, outgoing, kind, cheerful and sweet on the outside. But on the inside they are filled with turmoil. They are oftentimes sad, and anxious and the last thing they want to do is be around people. As long as they can they will put on a brave face and pretend like nothing is wrong! Why? Because depression is often seen as taboo. Or as someone just whining and wanting attention.  And many times the person suffering from depression doesn’t talk about it because they don’t feel like they would like the response they would get from others. Or they just simply don’t realize that they are depressed (or as severely depressed as they are!)  Most people have no idea just how serious depression can be. Nor do they realize the problems depression can cause. 
Depression doesn’t always look like it is portrayed in the movies. People don’t just lay in bed for days and not shower. Depression can appear in many different ways.  Acording to the Mayo Clinic Website the following issues can all signs of depression. 

-Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness

-Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep

-Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness

-Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation

-Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide

-Weight: weight gain or weight loss

-Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts

So by looking at this list it’s clear that depression has many faces.  Now that we know what depression could look like, let’s take a look at what can happen as a result of untreated or poorly treated depression. Untreated depression can lead to many issues like problems at work, relationship issues, and it can slow down the recovery time for illness. Depression can also increase the chance of risky behaviors like alcohol &/or drug addiction.  A study was recently done with those who have clinical depression who also have had a stroke or have heart disease. They found that the patients with depression had a harder time following physicians orders and coping with their illness. They are had a more difficult time making healthcare decisions. Another study showed that those who are depressed have a much higher risk of dying in the first few months after having a heart attack.  

Do men and women react differently to untreated depression?  Yes, men often times will exhibit fear, anger and violent behavior more often then women. In addition a depressed male may make more bad decisions and participate more in reckless and dangerous activity like reckless driving or unprotected sexual activity. 

How do you treat depression? What are the options?  Well, there are a lot of options for treatment. One of the biggest, other than medications, is therapy. It is thought that is the client can sit and talk to someone who isn’t invested, like family or friends, it will be highly beneficial. As they are able to get their feelings out and talk about things they wouldn’t want to, or feel comfortable talking to their friends and family with. Options for therapy include: Cognitive behavioral therapy, Behavior therapy, and Psychotherapy. Another option for treatment is medications that fall intothe following categories: SSRI which eases the symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety. (Zoloft or lexapro). Antidepressants which prevents or relieves depression and elevates moods. (Wellbutrin or Effexor). Anxiolytic which can Relieve anxiety and tension. May promote sleep. (Buspirone). And lastly Antipsychotic which Reduces or improves the symptoms of certain psychiatric conditions. (Abilify) 

According to Web MD nearly 90% of all who commit suicide have a history of clinical depression or some kind of mental health issues. Many times those who die by suicide also have some sort of addiction, like alcohol or drug addictions. Depression is a risk factor for suicide along with the list below. 

RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE:

-One or more prior suicide attempts

-Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse

-Family history of suicide

-Family violence

-Physical or sexual abuse

-Keeping firearms in the home

-Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain

-Incarceration

-Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others

Those are risk factors that can lead to suicide. Now here are warning signs to watch for in someone you think is very depressed and possibly suicidal. 

WARNING SIGNS:

-Always talking or thinking about death

-Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse

-Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights

-Losing interest in things one used to care about

-Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless

-Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will

-Saying things like “it would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”

-Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy

-Talking about suicide or killing one’s self

-Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

-Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20% and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.

So now we know what depression may look like or present itself. And that depression along with other issues are a risk factor for suicide, We have also looked at warning signs to watch for in someone who is depressed or possibly suicidal. But how we can we help prevent suicide? 

First and foremost if you have a person in your life that is talking about suicide ALWAYS TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY!!! If you can sit down and talk with the person face to face. Find out if they have an actual plan. But don’t argue with them about their plan or about suicide in general. Talk with them and make sure that they know you care about them and that you are listening. You should ALWAYS AVOID statements like “Oh you have so much to live for!” Try to find out if the person has ever received mental health care and if they are currently being treated by a mental professional. And if the person has a real plan and you know that they will most likely implement that plan do your best to get them help as quickly as possible.  

Where can I get help for a suicidal friend or family member?  Locally you can always take them to the nearest ER. Or if you don’t feel comfortable transporting or they will not allow you to, you can always call your local law enforcement.  They have been trained and know how to talk to and deal with a suicidal person.  You can also call the suicide help line Call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or the deaf hotline at 800-799-4889.  You can call these number anytime day or night. There will always be someone on the other end to help you. 

Depression is a serious condition and should not be looked at or treated lightly. Like noted above 90% of all the people who commit suicide have depression or some kind of mental illness.  In this post you were provided with the signs and symptoms of depression, risk factors for suicide and behaviors to watch for that often will precede suicide. If you have any questions or concerns alway contact your primary health provide or a mental health provider. And remember to never blow off someone who is talking about committing suicide because they may actually take those actions.  

-Amber 

Resources:
1. https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
2. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5672782

3.http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/29569/1/the-real-reasons-we-are-silent-about-depression

4.https://www.gstatic.com/healthricherkp/pdf/major_depression.pdf

5.http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/untreated-depression-effects

6.http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-recognizing-signs-of-suicide

7.https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf

8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181964/

But You Look Fine…..

We’ve all done it.  We’ve seen that person get out of the car at the local shopping center while parked in a handicapped spot. And thought, “There’s nothing wrong with them, who do they think they are?”  I’ll admit it I’ve thought that. And I think that’s the mentality of most. If you can’t SEE the disease it’s not there. Right?   NO Oh so WRONG!!!! Here’s some food for thought. 

So if 96% of illnesses are invisible that just leaves 4% that one can outwardly see. In 1997, there were 26 million Americans considered to have a severe disability and only 7 million of them use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker (U.S. Department of Commerce).  So you can only imagine how that number has increased in the last twenty years with medical advancement.  Chances are someone YOU KNOW has an illness that they are suffering from that you can’t see or may not even know about. 

So what exactly are invisible illnesses? They are conditions that you can not see by just looking at someone. These could be things such as: Anxiety, depression, mental illness, Autism, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Endometriosis, Interatitial Cystitis, Chrons Disease, EDS, epilepsy. Just to name a few. 

So how do they hide their disease and how do they feel? Here’s my story!

You may look at me and simply see a healthy-looking, overweight 30 something. However, just by looking at me you would never know the things I suffer from.  You wouldn’t know I have disabiling migraines, Systemic Lupus, Insomnia, Fibromyalgia, Interstitial Cystitis, Endometriosis, and Adrenal Inssufiency.  None of these things can be seen outwardly. 

You wouldn’t know that I am almost ALWAYS in pain somewhere. Whether it be my back or my hands or even my feet. Something always hurts even on the good days. You wouldn’t know that chances are I didn’t sleep well the night before because of said pain. And I’m so tired that it took 15 extra minutes to convince myself to get out bed. Even after taking my medicine 45 min before finally rolling out of bed.  And then I spent another hour getting through the process of showering, hair, makeup and getting dressed because I had to take 4 breaks. And by the time I’m done with all that, I really just want to get back in bed because I’m EXHAUSTED and it’s not even 8am. 
You won’t ever see me cry because I had to cancel plans for the 3rd time with my best friend. Because that is something I hide. You wouldn’t know that it rips me apart to have to stay home when everyone is out doing their daily activities. You wouldn’t know that grocery shopping is the vain of my existence. And something I have to mentally prepare for because it…..takes….so…..much……energy. And then actually putting the groceries away……that’s a whole different story. 

You will never see my utter frustration with constantly being sick. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Go ahead and think what you will. “She can’t really be sick again, can she!?”  “I bet she just doesn’t want to work so she says she sick!” Let me answer those questions. Yes, if I actually tell you I’m sick. I’m sick. The rest of the time I hide my illness for fear of being judged. As for just wanting to stay home. NO. I would much rather be in the workplace than on my couch. I didn’t go to college for 6 years not to use my degrees. 

By looking at me, you would never know that I may have had a migraine for three days. And am fighting the constant urge to throw up because of the migraine. You wouldn’t know that I might be having a hemiplegic migraine and my hands are going numb, and it’s hard to talk. You might see me in public with my shades on and think nasty things about me, none of which are true. I don’t have a hangover. And I wasn’t beaten up. I simply have a migraine that won’t quit. So don’t be so quick to judge. 

To talk to me you still probably wouldn’t see any difference in me. That is until the Brain Fog hits. It’s a thing!! Much like pregnancy brain or Chemo brain. You probably wouldn’t know that I constantly lose my train thought, sometimes in mid sentence. Or that some days I spend a lot of time looking for things that are right in plain site. You will probably notice me hunting for words while speaking. No, I’m not on drugs, or alcohol. I simply have brain fog associated with my invisible illness. Remember it’s a real thing….. look it up if you like. 

By looking at me you wouldn’t ever know that often my bladder is on fire and I have to urinate all the time. And I may get up four to five times a night to do. Yes at the ripe ole’ age of 31!!   You also wouldn’t know that many days out of the month I have severe pain in my belly. Either caused by the Interstitial Cystitis or by Endometriosis!  The pain can be disabling at times. And I would like to cry and lay in the fetal position. But I don’t! You also wouldn’t know that my chance to carry my own baby is slim to none now due to my invisible illnesses. The one thing I have wanted more than anything my whole life is no longer a possibility. But you can’t see that! 

Another thing you would never see by just looking at this 31yo lady is that the depression can be real. If you suffered from all the things I mentioned above you would probably be depressed too. You probably wouldn’t know that there are days when getting out of bed feels pointless. And crying is the only thing that seems to help.  Anxiety is also real. You never know when you get out somewhere if one of these diseases will strike its ugly head. Then what happens? How do you excuse yourself to head for home? Will I make it home safely? Should I bother my working family to come get me? All things you have to worry about because you never know when you could get sick. 

Any invisible illness can take over your life. And not usually for the good. There are so many struggles. Loss of friendships and family members because they don’t understand. Or don’t take the time to learn. Loss of wages/job because of being sick. And anyone who says getting disability is Easy is so WRONG. It can take years for people with an “Invisble Illness” to get approved. Because just like you the judge can’t see if either. We look fine on the outside.  

If you take anything away from this please thing before you hurl thoughtless, mean words at people. Try to be less judgemental when you see a young person parked in the handicapped spot. He or she probably needs it or they wouldn’t have it. Also, try to be a good friend! And know that even though we may cancel 5 times before we can actually have dinner with you, doesn’t mean we don’t value your friendship. It just means that we are listening to our bodies. Lastly, remember what your Mama taught you. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t bother saying anything at all!”

I hope this encourages others to share the things that no one can see outwardly due to their Invisible Illness. Let the world know what you go through. And others in the same boat know that they are not alone!!

-Amber

How do you deal with Depression?

Depression is something that just comes along with having a chronic illness. And the winter season seems to make it worse because you are not able to go out doors and keep up with the things you like to do. So what do you do to deal with it? What tips do you have for dealing with depression and making your life a little easier this time of year?  A lot of research has been done on his area and there are lots of ideas out there to deal with depression.  So here we go!

For MILLIONS of people living with a chronic illness and depression is a fact of life. According to WebMD Depression is one of the most common complications for those who have a chronic illness. It can be estimated that nearly one-third of people with some type of medical condition will show symptoms of depression. There is really no question why the two go hand in hand. When you have some sort of chronic illness it changes how you live your life, can limit your mobility and just make everything harder.  That Chronic Illness like Lupus can cause you not to be able to do the things that you like to do and can eat away at your self-confidence. Medications taken for said conditions can also have side effects of depression.  So it can some time look like a no-win battle.

Any illness that is around for a long time can trigger depression. In general, the risk of chronic illness and depression gets higher with the more severe conditions. In general the risk of depression is generally 10-25% for women and 5-12% for men, in the healthy population. However, those with chronic illness are at a mich higher risk of depression which a 25-33% risk.  The risk is also much higher for anyone who has a history of depression.

When a person with chronic illness develops depression it often times makes the condition worse.  Especially in conditions that cause pain or fatigue. Depression can truly increase a persons pain and fatigue. When you combine depression and chronic illness may lead the person to isolation. Which then in turn can make the depression worse. It’s a never ending cycle it appears.

If you think you are developing depression what kinds of signs should you watch for? Many times they are overlooked because one might think that what they are feeling is just a part of their illness. People will assume that feeling sad is just part of being diagnosed with a long term illness and are often masked. This leads to the symptoms being treated but not the depression itself. However, BOTH the symptoms and the depression need to be treated.

How can you treat depression? There are many options out there for those who develop or have always had depression. Early diagnosis and treatment can help ease any distress the patient feels, and the risk of complications and suicides. In many cases treatment for depression can improve a persons overall medical condition,  and increase the persons quality of life. As well, as increasing the likelihood of sticking to a long term treatment plan.  When the depressive symptoms a person is feeling is related to an illness or the side effect of a medication. The doctor may need to adjust or change the treatment regimen. When the depression is a stand alone condition it should be treated on its own.  Greater than 80% of those who have depression can be treated with medication successfully, psychotherapy or a combination of both.  The hard part with medications for depression is that they can take several weeks to truly take effect. So it is important that the patient stays in contact with their physicians during that time to ensure all goes well.

Now what can you do to live with depression?  What tips can we provide for you? Here are a few that may help you.

  • Try to avoid isolation. Find ways to reach out to family and friends. If you don’t have a good solid support system work to build one. Your Doctor or Therapist should have a list of support groups or be able to give you a list of community resources.
  • Take the time to learn as much as you can about your condition. Knowledge is power when it comes to getting the best treatment for your condition. And give you a sense of independence and control.
  • Make sure that you have support from medical experts you trust and who you can talk to openly about any ongoing questions or concerns.
  • If you think that your medications might be bringing you down, talk to your doctor about other possible treatment options.
  • Make sure to have a conversation with your doctor about pain management.
  • It is essential that you try to continue doing the things you have always done. Staying connected can help boost your self-confidence as well as your sense of community.
  • If you start to feel depressed or think you are becoming depressed DONT WAIT. Talk to your Doctor or Therapist as soon as you can.

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-illnesses-depression

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/10-steps-for-coping-with-a-chronic-condition