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

by Krissy Ward

 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.