Uncertainty and Anxiety
The sheer uncertainty can also translate to anxiety as not knowing what is going on with your own body can be very scary. Many people with lupus have symptoms that are ultra-frightening, such as swelling around the heart or in the chest that is quite benign, but feels life-or-death in the moment. Additionally, hearing stories about people with lupus who have either died or had to spend weeks in the ICU can tap into your fears about your health.
These fears can then be translated to fears and phobias that have nothing to do with health and can cause symptoms that are equally as crippling as lupus. If untreated, sometimes the anxiety can develop into the inability to leave the house for fear of infection, or any other phobia.
Dealing with anxiety is also tricky, but seeing a counselor specially trained in it is also ideal. Luckily, many counselors are trained in both depression and anxiety and the two disorders are closely related. A counselor or professional can really help you begin to identify thought patterns that spiral out of control and lead to bouts of anxiety or depression, and coping mechanisms that relate to your specific issues.
They may even be able to help you cope with nervousness and depression that goes with long hospital stays and help you find strategies to stay both calm and positive. If your anxiety is severe, you may be referred to someone who can prescribe you medication to “get you over” the hardest portion.
Keeping on Top
Anxiety and depression that is fleeting or very mild may not need to be treated with medicine or prolonged visits to a counselor, but it is important to be on top of it. Journaling your feelings in your lupus journal so you can see patterns and develop different thought patterns is helpful, as is gentle exercise.
The latter can be difficult when also trying to cope with lupus, but if you can, simple things like doing a meditative yoga DVD (or following along with a video on YouTube) or taking your dog out for a walk can help ease your mind.
Take care of your body. How are you sleeping? Sleeping eight hours each night gives your body an opportunity to recharge from the previous day. What about your diet? The foods you eat have a direct impact on how you feel. Ask your doctor or consult a professional to find the diet that is best for your symptoms.
Stay social. Isolation may feel like a good idea. You are tired, and your energy is low, but people with lupus benefit from social interaction, just like everyone else. Make plans with friends, chat online, join a support group and use the phone. Consider a pet! A companion can make your bad days feel brighter.
Take care of your mind. Be kind to yourself. With depression comes low self-esteem and negativity. Treating yourself as if you would a friend can change this mindset.
Although you may feel as though you are leaning on your family and friends too much, it is important to identify people who will listen to you and support you through your dark times. This may be a friend, family member, or it may help to join a support group for either lupus or anxiety and depression.
If you are not feeling physically ill with lupus symptoms during a bout of anxiety or depression, it is also important not to allow yourself to lie in bed excessively and to continue doing the activities you enjoy. While it may be difficult, it is worth it in the end. If your anxiety and depression is interfering with your everyday life, talk to your general practitioner or rheumatologist about strategies or referrals.
If you ever feel your anxiety or depression is truly out of control and you are in a crisis situation, do not hesitate to go to your nearest emergency room or call your local suicide hotline.