Coping With the Weight of CF
Saying cystic fibrosis (CF) has its obstacles is an understatement. As if the lung infections, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, and all the other countless issues with our body were not enough, the destruction it causes to our mental health can be the hardest part to recover from. It's easy to get sucked into the despair, the hopelessness, frustration, and loneliness. It’s entirely understandable how easily it is to sink into depression.
My mental health and CF symptoms
Once my mental health is affected, often worsening of physical symptoms can follow. This can be in part to:
- Raise in blood sugar due to stress.
- Lack of caring about my overall well-being.
- Difficulty keeping up with treatments.
- Struggling to move around and keep active.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Immune system is weakened by stress.
Those are just a few of the ways depression can lead to worsening of my CF related symptoms. That in turn just makes it harder to get out of. It can often be an endless cycle that is hard to break out of. I consider myself lucky that I’m beginning to emerge from the darkness of the last half a year, but it was a heavy few months.
It’s going to take me awhile to get back and I’m going into this trying to be gracious with myself as I recover.
Now more than ever though I want to advocate stressing the importance of mental health help in the CF community. I want to stress the importance of having resources available for those, like me, who were just too exhausted to know where to turn. I want to stress allowing yourself compassion as you navigate some very heavy emotions. Thankfully, we are making new medical advancements constantly. In recent years, I've seen more acknowledgment towards the benefits of mental care of patients dealing with chronic illness. More options for therapy are becoming available.
There are wonderful resources available through programs such as Compass, Boomer Esiason Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Claires Place Foundation; just to name a few.
The road to recovery
As well there are additional small steps you can take to try to break the cycle.
- Going to therapy - in person or virtually.
- Keeping up with all your medications and treatments to the best of your ability.
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
- Forming good sleep habits.
- Maintaining a healthy diet.
- Reaching out to your support system.
- Going outside for at least a few minutes each day.
- Journaling your thoughts.
- Doing hobbies or activities that previously made you happy.
- Focusing on self-care - however that looks to you.
- Getting out of bed, even if it's to sit somewhere else.
These are just some activities that might help you in beginning to feel more like yourself. Above all try to focus on being kind to yourself. We've all been dealt a difficult hand in life, and we are survivors. Somedays are going to feel much heavier than others as we carry the weight of CF on our shoulders. So, be loving to yourself and remember even on the days you just can't see through the darkness- you've overcome so much already. You are a warrior and even warriors need their rest sometimes.
Tomorrow is another day to find your light.
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