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I Have A Chronic Illness And Chronic Depression

Having a chronic illness like ankylosing spondylitis takes its toll on us physically, but it also takes a huge toll on us mentally, too. It’s no secret that a lot of us deal with anxiety and depression. In my case, I find the depression to be worse.

When my depression started

I’ve been depressed since I was 16 years old. If you’ve read my article about pets, you know how much they mean to me. In 2012, my first family cat, Maple passed away. I had gotten her when I was 5, so she’d been around almost my whole life.

Our relationship wasn’t super close, but she made me happy. I loved being around her. Her passing hit me really hard. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became majorly depressed.

How it’s developed over the years

My depression has never really gone away. Sometimes I wonder how anyone else’s just goes away. Because I’ve had it for so long, I don’t really remember what it’s like to not be depressed.

I’ve had it for 7 years now. At times it gets worse than others, but for the most part, I’m always depressed in some way. It feels like depression has become a part of my identity at this point. Not that that’s bad, it just feels like it’s such a big part of me.

How having a chronic illness ties in with chronic depression

The depression got a little worse when my symptoms started showing. Being isolated and in pain 24/7 starts to take a toll on you mentally. I was completely lost and I became majorly depressed again.

That’s when I finally decided that I wanted to tell someone about it. I told my doctor, and I was put on antidepressants. It was a scary first step, but the most important step I’ve taken for myself to date.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would have ever taken that step to help myself had I not experienced chronic pain. It was definitely a catalyst in me finally treating my mental health.

Chronic illnesses are depressing

I won’t lie to you, chronic illnesses are depressing and anxiety-inducing. Our entire lives change. Some of us can no longer handle jobs (like me) or have to take a step back and readjust how we’ve been working.

I had to quit my job as a line cook almost immediately after my symptoms started. I was limping and hopping around the kitchen in a tremendous amount of pain. It reached a point where I could just no longer go to work, and I never went back.

It’s also isolating

Chronic illnesses are also isolating. I was 21 when my symptoms started. I isolated myself from everyone for a good 4 months because I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t want to bother everyone else with my problems.

Being a young person in pain is extremely hard. I had to stop going out late for the most part, and I couldn’t see my friends and do things they wanted to do. I also lost some friends because there are people out there that don’t believe that young people can get sick.

Getting help for my depression

In early 2018, I finally started seeing a psychiatrist for my depression and anxiety. I can’t tell you how much even just talking has helped me. I’ve done some CBT therapy, talk therapy, tried different meds, and tried meditation and mindfulness.

Since then, I’ve seen multiple therapists and done a lot of work on my mental illnesses. It’s still a battle that I’m fighting, but it’s starting to feel like one that I’m winning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my bouts of major depression, but I’m starting to realize that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The more we practice, the better we can be.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AnkylosingSpondylitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Lisa Marie Basile moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi Steff, thanks for sharing this. It’s so important to me that we approach illness with an eye on mental health as well. It’s all SO connected! There are plenty of people (and even doctors) who don’t look at the mind-body connection, and articles like these help to change the narrative.

    I’m sorry you struggle with depression. I definitely can relate to you in some ways — for me it’s anxiety and CPTSD and I feel it’s very connected to the body. Here’s to you managing things and finding some joy.

  • Steff Di Pardo moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hey Lisa, I totally agree. AS and chronic illnesses in general affect every single aspect of our lives. Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m sorry you struggle with anxiety and CPTSD. I hope that you are doing well.

  • Lawrence "Rick" Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    I am with you Steff. I have been depressed for so many years it is impossible to know when it even started. I know I was a child and while I mostly did OK with it, it certainly got worse and worse in my thirties.

    The good news that with medication and long time talk therapy I am getting better. I am convinced that being depressed is not the main issue, but not doing something about it, is a big issue.

    Thank you for the wonderful blog.

  • Steff Di Pardo moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hey Rick!
    Talk therapy has definitely helped me the most. I definitely only started to get better once I realized I was depressed and did something about it. I 100% agree with you! Thanks for reading 🙂

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