I’ve been putting off writing this. It’s been something I’ve wanted to write for months but I’ve not been brave enough. As I’m writing this it’s currently day one of mental health awareness week, and already I’ve read so many amazing blog and social media posts from everyone about their own mental health stories. This has given me the kick up the arse I needed. I specifically wanted to write about the effect a chronic pain condition has on my own mental health.
I’m going to be honest. Until about twelve months ago, i considered myself to be someone with an understanding of mental illness and what it could mean but not someone who suffered with a mental illness themselves. Endometriosis has changed that.
Over the past few months I’ve found my mental health deteriorate. I had my first panic attack not long after my last surgery that involved nearly five weeks of sick leave. I’ve often heard people say they were convinced they were dying, what else could make you feel as if your heart would beat out your chest, convince you you were hyperventilating or make you shiver and sweat? Since then they have become more and more common and when they’re not around anxiety I would never have normally experienced before remains. I’ve been taking Sertraline for several months now, things aren’t better but certainly more manageable.
I’ve not been able to put my finger on what exactly triggers them. I’m happy (mostly) in social situations, and find I’m at my worst at bedtime and into the night, meaning insomnia has been a common symptom for me. I have found that my anxiety peaks when I’m coming out of an endo flare up. Often where I’ve been stuck in bed for days in severe pain. My thoughts become more negative, I’m often full of guilt, and that’s when my anxiety says hi.
I spent so long fighting for a diagnosis, once i got it I think I didn’t know what to do next. I struggled for quite some time with the idea of being sick (potentially) forever. How am I to be realistic and positive, how am I to live my life to the fullest whilst being mindful of the constraints of my body?
So much time and focus is given to our physical health and very little to our mental health. This includes our gynecologists, our GPs or primary care doctors and ourselves. This disease can affect our relationships, careers and personal identities but until I approached my GP myself about my issues with sleeping and panic attacks no medical professional EVER discussed my mental health or checked in with me. Don’t get me wrong my GP is ace. She is lovely, takes my pain seriously and identifies when she’s unable to help me and refers me to someone who can. This just shows that there is a massive hole in the current treatment of endo.
A study published by The Australian and New Zealand journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology identified the perceptions medical professional had regarding women’s phycological care with endometriosis. If you have a bunch of time here’s the study! https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ajo.12571
One of the biggest conclusions of this study was that gynecologists and other consultants treating patients with endo had less consideration of a person’s mental health that GPs or primary care doctors, either not treating it as something to consider at all or as something better dealt with by another health care professional.
I think it’s so wonderful that mental health awareness week exists, a time when we can encourage everyone to either have more consideration and empathy for others or in fact themselves. BUT. The truth is we have so far to go. I’m sure stigma is a contributing factor as to why women still find it easier to discuss their endometriosis than their mental health. Talking and acceptance is so vital, but so are adequate mental health services. Here in the UK these are often the services that are eroded and cut first. Let’s talk about how government cuts affect those with mental illness this week?
Anywho thumbs up to anyone currently struggling with their mental health, or who has managed to overcome it! Let’s talk about mental health this week in all its forms, but let’s remember to carry on talking about it and not stop.