My physical health doesn’t give me trouble as often as my mental illness. I spend a lot more time dodging mental bullets than a cold or flu. But sometimes we get sick. Physically sick. Sometimes, when everything is going well, we wake up feeling like we got hit by a semi.
As I write these words, I’m downing espresso, as it’s hard to formulate a thought, a train of ideas, when my nose is running and my desk is cluttered with Kleenex and various types of cough drops. But I didn’t write this post to complain (okay, maybe a little) about my aching throat and tired limbs, no, I want to discuss the impact physical illness has our mental health.
Physical Illness Sucks Like Mental Illness
First, let’s state the obvious, let’s get it over with so we can move on: When you’re sick you don’t feel well; maybe you miss a couple days of work, forget to make dinner because you have lost your appetite, you probably feel a little depressed, stuck in bed or chugging orange juice because your mother told you it makes you well. That and soup. Some crackers thrown in for variety.
Hopefully, you have someone to take care of you, and if you don’t, let’s hope you can call a good friend and beg him or her to bring you that Kleenex that has moisturizer in it, the one on the commercial you just viewed on TV, stuck in bed, sniffling.
Being sick sucks. It leaves a lot to be desired. But when you have a mental illness the symptoms of physical illness can effect our mental health.
How Does Physical Illness Impact Mental Illness?
Let me break this down (currently easier then writing paragraphs):
>When you have a mental illness being physically ill can spur feelings of depression. These are feelings most people feel when they are ill, but it’s different when you have a mental illness: feelings of depression are scary. We might wonder if our mind is getting sick as well.
>Losing your appetite when sick is normal. You can sip as much chicken soup as you want, but when you take psychiatric medication you need to eat normally. Your body fuels your mind and if you are to maintain stability, well, you need to eat.
>When your sick you might have trouble sleeping. Yes, you know this, those who struggle with mental illness need sleep more than soup or orange juice. It can be difficult to sleep if you’re coughing all night. And that leads me to the most important point:
>You usually cannot take cough, cold, or flu medication when you take psychiatric medication. I’ve tried. The results were disastrous: NyQuil, that stuff with a million endearing commercials, interacted with my medication and destabilized me until I figured out what was wrong. Always, always, always check with your mental health team before taking anything. I cannot stress this enough.
There are many issues that come into play when your fighting both physical and mental illness but, in my experience, feeling as if your physical symptoms are symptoms of relapse are the most frightening. It’s tough, when your stuck in bed watching reality TV, to convince yourself that you are sick and you will soon be well, and you are not, for lack of a better word, going crazy.
Physical illness impacts our mental health, but it doesn’t have to define our life. Everyone gets sick. The person who transferred the sickness to you, well, they are back at work and functioning as they did, and you will too.
I would take a bad cold, boxes of Kleenex, and boring food over a mental health relapse any day. I suspect you would as well.
Having said that, I’m going back to bed, with peppermint tea and the knowledge that I am not losing my mind, no, I just have some extra time to read. And drink masses of orange juice.