Every now and then I read articles about researchers discovering a link between chronic illness and depression.
Apparently some of them think this is a new discovery. It’s not so new. Most of us with chronic illnesses already know we get depressed.
I have antidepressants in my regular cocktail of drugs – and I’m sure lots of other lupies do too.
So why is this so? (Australians of a certain age, will hear Prof Julius Sumner-Miller’s voice with that question.)
I can’t tell you what the researchers have found – but here’s what it’s like from the inside.
Being diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness is a shock. I realised something was wrong – but until I was diagnosed and did some reading to find out what lupus was and what all these drugs I was being given could do, did it really hit home just how wrong it was. What had been a series of unrelated annoyances: being constantly tired, some really sore joints, irritable bowel, reflux, ridiculously sensitive skin (especially sensitive to sunlight), an unexplained series of symptoms that led to a hysterectomy, etc, etc, were all suddenly the same thing, and it was a very, very bad thing.
I’m not saying I thought I was immortal. As a minister (and especially when I was in hospital chaplaincy) I have spent a lot of time around death. I always knew I was going to die. But that was a more theoretical knowledge. Once I was diagnosed, I was faced with a very present reality. There’s a lot of ways to die from lupus (it can attack pretty much any organ of the body), and none seem to be at all pleasant.
Not only that, but the drugs I use to control the lupus, are themselves poisons. I know I’m swallowing toxic substances daily – the methotrexate I take on Saturday nights came with all sorts of warnings about washing hands after touching the tablets, not allowing anyone else to touch them without gloves, and if any of my body fluids get spilled use gloves to clean them up, don’t just throw the tablets out and let the poison get into the environment, etc. And I’m putting this stuff in my body! Oh hooray! What joy!
So I carry all of this knowledge of “bad stuff” going on in my body every day.
Then add in the bad days – the days when I’m in uncontrollable pain, or am too tired to get out of bed – the days that remind me that nothing in life can ever truly be “normal” again.
Yeah, I struggle with depression. Maybe there’s hormonal things happening, and the lupus affects chemical balances, etc. Whether there is or there isn’t, I’ve got enough happening to get depressed about.