Having any type of chronic illness (endometriosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, PCOS, etc.) doesn't only take a toll on the organs that are directly affected by disease. Chronic illness takes a toll on the entire body including mental health. Chronic illness can limit what you're able to do. It can make you feel isolated and alone. It can make you feel unworthy. All of these are valid feelings, but it's important that we talk to someone who specializes in counseling, therapy, and/or psychiatry to get the help we need so that we don't get stuck in these feelings 24/7 and are able to live.
Counselors listen to what their clients are going through and may help with coming up with solutions. Sometimes it's helpful just having someone to talk to and listen who is not directly part of your life and decisions you make. Counselors are not doctors, therefore they can't prescribe medications.
Psychiatrists are doctors and don't listen as long as counselors do. They ask questions to make sure you aren't a danger to yourself or others and can prescribe medications for depression, anxiety, or other mental health illnesses. Needing medications for mental health illnesses is not a bad thing and shouldn't be stigmatized. If you injured your knee and needed medication, would you take it? Yes, especially if you were experiencing a lot of pain. Mental health should be viewed the same way.
I think everyone, especially those who suffer with some type of chronic illness should have a counselor and/or psychiatrist. It can be extremely difficult to talk to our family, friends, or those closest to us about what exactly we are going through for fear of being judged or misunderstood. If you have a counselor and/or psychiatrist, it is important that you feel comfortable talking with them. It's not going to be helpful if you feel like you can't tell them what's going on with your life. It is okay to change counselors or psychiatrists if you need to.
Personally, I have been seeing a counselor for almost five years. Several months after my hysterectomy I was still having problems with my health and trying to attend pharmacy school. I knew that a hysterectomy wasn't a cure for endometriosis before I had it done, but I was still hopeful that it would help and very angry that my pain was still there shortly after. I found my therapist on https;//www.psychologytoday.com.
This was the first time I had ever been to a counselor and I didn't really know what to expect. I started going once every two weeks and now go once every couple of months or when I feel like I need to depending on what's going on in my life. I am given about an hour to talk about whatever I need to during each appointment. I think this is a great time frame because I don't feel rushed and am able to talk about different topics if I need to. At the end of each appointment, my counselor always asks if she can pray for me and I love this. I struggled at least a year with anger and other feelings with my health, but counseling has helped me deal with these feelings and not feel this way as often. I am very thankful that I have found a counselor that I like and have always felt comfortable with since my first appointment.
I personally do not have experience with a psychiatrist, but know many people who see one and they can be extremely helpful.
It's difficult talking about our feelings especially when we don't want to or are afraid of what others might think if they knew how we really felt. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to talk about your feelings. Keeping your feelings bottled up could be catastrophic for your health. It's okay to take medications if you need to.
I hope you find this information helpful.
Samantha Bowick, MPH is the author of "Living with Endometriosis: The Complete Guide to Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options" and "Living with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency" as well as a fellow sufferer of multiple chronic illnesses and patient advocate.