Hope on the Horizon
Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
I don’t want to mumble on about my week or what has been going on because the truth is, my life right now is not all that interesting. I have been recovering from pneumonia these last couple months and it has really taken a toll on my physical health. As many of you know, physical health conditions can impact mental health and vice versa. It is something that I personally think is not talked about enough. People don’t realize the strong correlation between mental and physical health. Something that I haven’t been super open about is the way that my mental health has impacted my physical health growing up. I would say a lot of my personal anxiety problems have happened since I was young. I have always had a sensitive stomach and so that was always something that would flare up especially during times of stress. Throughout my blog, I plan on sharing what I feel comfortable and what makes everyone else around me comfortable as well. With that being said, I am still trying to figure out what parts of my story can help others and which other parts are better to let go.
For this specific blog post, I wanted to touch on mental health and physical health and what symptoms I have had. I have always had a lot of undiagnosed physical health problems. A lot of times when doctors feel stumped, they will often contribute physical health issues to “being in your head” or “just stress”. Don’t get me wrong, that definitely can happen when stress impacts your body physically. However, telling someone that “it is in their head” can be incredibly invalidating. For people without mental health issues, they can assume that they are “crazy” or that they are “making it up”. When a person feels this way, this in turn can totally cause mental health issues down the road. It also goes vice versa where not tending to your mental health can cause long-term physical health issues.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional and am not giving any medical advice. I am simply just trying to tell you my personal experience.
I used to get so frustrated when I wasn’t validated by doctors. I HATED when any doctor would bring up stress as a way to diagnose a physical feeling I was having. And yes- a lot of the times with my many different health issues, they were wrong. Many times they contributed one of my sicknesses to mental health, they were wrong. BUT- I finally did learn that there were also some symptoms that had physically NO explanations behind it. At some point, there are only so many tests doctors can run. That was when I had to really dig deep and think about if something else was impacting me that could give me weird sensations.
One time that I felt completely invalidated was when I kept having a choking feeling in my throat. It felt like I was suffocating and choking and I went to countless doctors and had countless E.R. visits with little to no explanations. It got so bad that at the E.R. they sent a counselor in to question me about my mental health. I had already been seeing the counselor at my school. I was so hurt that these doctors thought I was making these sensations up. To them, however, they just thought that my stress was physically manifesting into something unexplainable. They really were trying to help, but it made me feel like shit. I didn’t want my parents paying so much money for someone to say that I was making this up because I couldn’t handle the stress in my life at the time.
In this certain scenario, they did end up being right and wrong. They were wrong because eventually we found out that my tonsils were HIGHLY infected and were so LARGE that the doctor said they didn’t know how I wasn’t choking on my food every time I ate. Side note- I WAS! LOL. This physical tonsil situation did impact me in a very bad way. Since I felt that I was choking all the time, I didn’t eat as much because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. And if this wasn’t enough, I had lost so much weight that I literally had kids in my lunch period telling me that “ I looked like a starving African child”. And no, I am not exaggerating that those words came out of one of my
“Friend’s” mouths. So yes-doctor- my mental health HAS been bad because of the way my physical health was.
I can go on for days on the amount of times that I haven’t been listened to by doctors. However, I do now know my own physical manifestations of stress. I have IBS. For those who don’t know, it basically is just when you have chronic stomach issues and abnormal bowel habits. It is incredibly painful and there are a lot of triggers that irritate it. I always used to get so mad when people would contribute my stomach pain to stress. However, the more I learned, the more open minded I became. A couple months ago, for the first time in my life, I started taking an anti-anxiety medication. I was against this for so long because of the stigma behind it. However, I finally decided it was needed in my life. Now let me tell you all something a little crazy. Since being on this medication, my stomach has personally come leaps and bounds y’all. My awful episodes have dramatically decreased and my bathroom habits and pain isn’t running my life in that way anymore. And the only thing that I did differently was take medication. This was a time that it made sense to me. I knew that my physical symptoms were much better when I had my mental health under control.
Another thing that I notice now is still that choking feeling from time to time. I always notice this feeling when I am having extreme mental pain. I notice it when I feel like I could cry but have no tears to let out. It feels like a knot hanging in the back of my throat. It is so uncomfortable. And at this point, there is no physical explanation for this feeling. I finally learned that this sensation is almost a coping mechanism that my mind has developed. When I get this sensation in times of high stress, I now know that this is my body’s way of telling me that I need to say how I feel. I need to talk it out and feel. I need to NOT disassociate any longer and be able to let my guard down and share my feelings. This is still one of my greatest struggles. I am more of a “suffer in silence” person. But suffering in silence doesn’t really benefit anyone. I usually am still miserable and push away all the people in my life trying to support me. But just like chronic physical health conditions, mental health conditions take time to heal too. These conditions are also chronic, meaning they can flare up from time to time. When you have a mental health condition and allow yourself to have a couple off days or weeks, it is OKAY. You just cannot stay there forever. This is the same with physical health too. If you have a bad IBS flare for a couple days, does that mean you can NEVER get back to feeling better? Absolutely not. It is just so important to always be your own advocate. Truth is, you personally know your body more than anyone else. I have had to be my own advocate for my health so many times. And as I mentioned, may times I was correct about my own health. It can be so frustrating trying to defend your own health and feelings. However, it may just save your life by advocating for yourself. Also try to keep an open mind and stay away from WebMD, LOL.
I hope this helps someone out there who has felt the same way before being invalidated or feeling embarrassed of their health. You don’t deserve to feel like that and there is always hope on the horizon in my book.
Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3PDF to Template