We Need To Talk About The Impact Of Ill Physical Health On Mental Health

When I become physically unwell, even just a bit, I spiral

There’s a part of me that now knows and understands the viscous cycle of ill health, both mental and physical. For several months my mental health has been on an even keel – with emotionally unstable personality disorder this is quite unusual as were known for rapid mood changes, our emotions fluctuate daily and it can be uncomfortable and frustrating not just for us but for those around us. The biggest issue I find is when I become physically unwell, even just a bit, I spiral because the support network isn’t in place for these kind of issues.

For anyone else a cough or bug is simply that. They might fight through it or have a couple of days in bed, but either way it has a start and an end. For me the moment I start to feel a little unwell, I start to wobble. I have asthma, which is triggered by my anxiety anyway, but throw in a chest infection, a combination of additional medications like steroids and I’m suddenly a different person.

The first thing I almost always do is get confused with my medications. When my chest infection was in full swing I needed to take over 25 tablets a day on top of my inhalers. Different times, food or no food, and it doesn’t take long before you forget one or take an extra one. With some of the medication I take that’s not good at all. They are well controlled the rest of the time but soon enough I’m not sure what I’m taking and then guess what, I get anxious. Really anxious. I begin to panic that it’s more than just a chest infection and as the wheeze spreads I wonder if it’s my asthma or anxiety, or am I actually really ill. I then forget to re order my medication. I’ll never know why I have to ring up and order my medication when I take the same ones, for example tonight, I’ve run out of a certain tablet which is there to aid my sleep. So I can’t sleep, I’m anxious and still unwell.

I then don’t eat properly. Don’t get me wrong, I eat. My goodness I eat. I eat anything that’s within arm’s reach – cereal, chocolate, anything that requires no thought or effort. This is the time that a bit of fruit and a healthy-rounded meal would be best.

I also lose my way with chores, what the kids need for school, appointments, food shop, meals, anything really. The cloudy head returns with vengeance. Not just that but that lovely paranoia floods back with judgement. The bad parent, the forgetful one, I missed a birthday, I didn’t visit a friend, etc. And there we are, back to the beginning of a a poor mental health mind. I don’t want to get up or go out. I’ve missed too much. I just want to say in bed and begin cancelling plans.

The point I’m trying to raise is, just because a cold is a cold to some people, you don’t and won’t know how that illness will effect everyone. My CPN (clinical psychiatric nurse) is amazing and helps me do often, but of course with half term this week she’s away, and my head isn’t in the right place to know whether I should call my GP, the crisis team or just go to bed and keep my fingers crossed.

I’m the first to say I’m irrational and my thoughts are exaggerated from the symptoms I feel, but it’s not without cause or reason. So if you see someone, and they aren’t well, just let them know you’re there. Ask if they need any medications fetching or lunch. Do they need a book to read to help them sleep? For me, the biggest help would be someone to just write down everything from my head so I can plan out all the practical things I need to do.