Guest Blog: Mental Health & Chronic Pain: Helpful Tips for A Healthy Mind

 written by Amberly Ellis, APC

   Life is hard. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It throws you curve balls and they sometimes come out of left field. For some of you reading this, one of those curve balls is a diagnosis of a chronic illness.

     As a mental health counselor and a fellow fibro warrior myself, I can speak to the brutality of this disease and the ways it can impede on our happiness and negatively impact our mental health.

     A study from NBCI looked into the depression and suicidality rates of individuals in 3 groups: a controlled group, a group of lower back pain sufferers, and a group of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What they found was that suicidal ideation and suicide risk were significantly highest in patients with fibromyalgia (NBCI). They found that the “pain intensity and the physical health of the groups were similar, but that the severity of depression and mental health status were significantly worse among patients with fibromyalgia” (NBCI).

     Given this information, it is apparent that there is significant mental health challenges for chronic illness sufferers and that this struggle can lead to suicidal thoughts and event attempts. If you fall into the category of chronic illness, it’s important that you stay in tune with your mental health status; thoughts, patterns, behaviors. Are you sleeping more? Experiencing decreased motivation? Having negative thoughts? Decreased interested in hobbies you once loved? Irritability? Listen to your self, your mind, and your body. And most important know that it’s okay to seek support.

Helpful Tips:

Counseling:

     Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to help not only the depressive symptoms, but also the anxiety symptoms and sensory challenges that come along with Fibromyalgia and other chronic illness. If you want to seek professional guidance and support though this journey, an easy way to find a best fit therapist is to go to psychologytoday.com and read therapist’s profiles. Some therapist may even offer a free 30 minutes consultation before committing to services to assess for best fit.

     For immediate need and support during an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.

Exercise:

     Get active. Even if it’s only 20-30 minutes a day. I’m telling you, exercise is the BEST medicine. Listen to your body and see what it’s capable of that day. A short walk? A bike ride? A quick jog? Yoga? Playing with your kids outside? Any kind of movement incorporated into your daily routine is critical for mental and physical health.

Support System:

     I challenge you to identify at least ONE person in your life that can be your support system. It can be hard to be open and vulnerable about chronic pain and illness due to fear of judgment or lack of understanding. Trust me, I get it. However, it’s so important to have one person you can trust and confide in so you don’t have to carry the burden on your own.

4 comments

  • This really hit home with me! I live with my husband, who has terrible back problems & is facing his 3rd back surgery, & my mother-in-law who battles COPD daily.
    I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2010. This was after having gastric bypass in 2005, thinking that my weight was causing all this unexplainable pain that I was in. Plus all my other health issues seemed to just keep piling up.
    My husband used to be SO supportive & was my greatest advocate for several years. Now, he’s in SO much pain that, most of the time, he seems to forget about any of my health problems. He gets more demanding & seems to expect more from me every day.
    My mother-in-law has NEVER honestly believed in Fibromyalgia. In fact, right after my Fibro diagnosis & right in front of me, told her best friend who asked what fibromyalgia was, said “oh hell Lane! It’s the hypochondriac’s disease!” That broke my heart! Since then she’s tried to ACT like she believes me & is supporting me. But I’ve known her for over 22 years now & I can tell very easily that she is NOT sincere!
    So, needless to say, I spend a great deal of my time feeling totally alone, exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, in unrelenting pain & very emotional!
    It’s really encouraging to find this blog where I can fit in & get TRUE support! Thank You so much for being here!
    Sending soft, tender hugs & prayers! Elaine

    Elaine Brazil
  • I finally got an actual diagnosis of fibromyalgia *after 5 years of relentless debilitating pain that caused me to lose my career as a dental assistant. I went back to school at 40ish because I knew that I couldn’t do many things physically like lifting, push/pull & nothing repetitive. I also have chronic migraines. The pressure of trying to get through the day having to fake countless things jacked up my anxiety. Back gave out during a root canal, causing me to choke the patient with the suction tip & scraped the roof of their mouth. I also elbowed them when my back gave out. I’m now working on SSD. Lost my spouse but live with him because I don’t have any family, money or anywhere to go. He’s verbally abusive. My only daughter/family stopped speaking to me without notice. I saw a post on her social media about “crying victim” as an excuse to not do better ~ she wrote " you know who you are and I see you peepin with a 👋"

    Beth
  • Yes it is a never ending struggle. One day your up and the next you don’t know how you’re doing to make it out of bed. Not to mention all the other things you must do for basic survival. What to eat or even how will I be able to prepare my own meals or plan
    your own meals due to being so exhausted from not being able to sleep the night before. The pain we feel sometimes is so bad and there seems to be no one out there who could possibly understand how you are supposed to deal with it. It is a lonely existence in which your own family members often think you’re faking some kind of illness just to gain attention. Oh pray it never happens to them.

    Ava Sesler
  • Well written,you covered a lot of issues that most of us don’t know about.Continue to feed those of us who have no idea what its like to live a life of pain and suffering,mental as well as physical.

    Johnnie Patterson

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