What is mental health?
Mental health can mean different things to different people, but to put it simply:
“Mental health is about wellness rather than illness” – beyondblue.org.au
To me, mental health is being psychologically and emotionally “well enough” in order to cope with day to day life without many ill effects/the dreaded downwards spiral.
Mental health vs physical health with a stoma
Physical health relates to being free from illness or injury, but looking after your physical health can lead to good mental health and vice versa. However, what do you do when you have physical health issues beyond your control? That can be super difficult to deal with. Having being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease aged 7 but having symptoms from birth means that it’s always been harder to look after my physical health in ways I can control, and in turn that has impacted my mental health.
My mental health
I don’t remember a huge lot about when I was diagnosed apart from it meant I had something to almost label or define my pain as. That in a way provided me with some comfort as I thought there would be more ways to help me seeing as they had sussed what was causing me to be so ill.
For nearly 10 years, I was put through so many different treatments which failed, many horrible procedures & lost most of my childhood, being unable to do things that your ‘average’ child should do, such as attend school regularly, go on school trips or hang out at your friend’s house eating copious amounts of sweets and pizza. Some of those experiences are definitely embedded in my mind & always will be. That feeling of missing out on so much is always there, even though I know I can never go back & get it back.
Finding out about needing to have my permanent ileostomy in 2011 didn’t come as a surprise to me, but the hospital were reluctant to rush into my operation as they were worried that mentally it would be a big change for me to deal with at aged 19. I was ready for this and mentally it was a lot to deal with, but the prospect of being in that much pain any longer pushed me forward to make my mind up to have the operation as soon as possible and hopefully start living my life.
After my operation in 2011, my mental health has been up and down in so many ways. It is safe to say that being a young woman surrounded by many social pressures and stigmas alone is hard enough in itself, without having the added complications of illness or bodily changes due to surgery on top of other things. I have a few mental illnesses which sometimes just about destroy me, but thankfully those times are becoming much further apart & less frequent.
I really do struggle sometimes with the mental weight of having a stoma and everything that surrounds it. I see a counselor every 2 weeks who has helped me come on leaps and bounds and become more equipped to cope with my stoma when I encounter problems, specifically when I struggle with triggers from being around hospital a lot in those times. I struggle with fear of abandonment, due to having to spend a lot of time alone as a child in hospital feeling vulnerable, in pain & I remember now sitting constantly rocking every second to stop myself losing control of my bowels if I sat still because I felt that on edge when my family couldn’t be around to support me (through no faults of their own). My counselor also helps me deal with a lot of other bad experiences & to find better coping mechanisms for during those darker times.
Positivity vs being realistic
I find it so infuriating when you get people who literally state that if you’re positive about a rubbish situation then it will hurt less. I can agree that to some extent if you are positive then things may have less power over you, but what is actually wrong with feeling negative about something? We all have a right to go with our emotions & feel how we feel, without feeling like we are doing wrong if we don’t look on the bright side. Sometimes, you just can’t see the bright side, even if to others it’s right in front of you. Sometimes, you just want to be mad at the world & have a day where you sulk & hide, & do you know what? That’s perfectly okay. On those days, it’s important to be more gentle with yourself, even if that’s super tough. It’s important to practice good self care, specifically on the bad days, although that in itself is a hard battle if the last thing you want to do is escape your bed. Tough times do not last, & it is important to remember that it will get better. I have personally found that trying to be positive but realistic at the same time can help me get a better hold on things… I guess it’s about finding a balance between the two & learning that unfortunately, none of us are immune to bad times! Our bad times do not define us, but they do in some way shape us & if you spoke to your 11 year old self, I’d be sure to tell them you’re a lot stronger now than you ever could have imagined then ♥
I am going to do a post on self care, helped by some lovely people around me with what self care practices they use!
Until next time,