Day 21: Mental Health and IBD
Mental health is the topic on tap for day 21 of National Health Blog Post Month and oh how IBD and mental health overlap! I have talked a good amount on my blog about the impact my struggle with ulcerative colitis took on my emotional health but for this post, I am going to try to approach it from a bit of a different angle. As I am sure I don’t have to tell all of you, there is an enormous stigma surrounding mental health issues. It is really difficult to talk about emotional issues for so many reasons. One of which is that it is an invisible illness so no one can see the emotional pain someone is suffering from.
I am going to come right out and say what I have only told a few people. There was more to that late September night of last year that I talked about in this post here One Year Ago Today. What I left out was that after I was in the car screaming and crying for a while, I actually went inside my house, got my cell phone, went back in the car, and dialed 911. At this point, I was lucid enough to actually call for help. I so badly didn’t want to bother my parents, yet I was in so much emotional pain I didn’t know how I could possibly get through the night. I didn’t know what else to do. I had never felt that much pain in my entire life. It was as if there was a black hole inside of me eating away at my sole. By the end of September of 2011, I had undergone 11 years of enormous physical pain and suffering from ulcerative colitis, 14 major operations, umpteen procedures, 350 nights at Mt. Sinai Hospital, constant random blockages/obstructions, AND had chronic daily migraines. I haven’t said this next thing to many people but I didn’t want to exist anymore. I didn’t want to die but I couldn’t continue to live the way I was. I was 85lbs and scared out of my mind to eat. I was literally willing to never eat again if it meant that it would keep me from ever stepping foot in that wretched place (the hospital) ever again. My anxiety was insurmountable and consequently, I rarely got more than two hours of sleep a night. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
That late September night, I just remember dialing 911, saying something about I just wanted to be able to sleep and be out of pain for one day. I was sobbing and I remember thinking that the guy on the other line was asking me the most absurd questions but then I realized he was just keeping me talking until someone came. An ambulance and a police car came to my house that night and I very willingly got in the ambulance. I allowed the medic to attempt to take blood from places I KNEW he had no chance of ever getting. I was done fighting. I was just finished. Everything he said, I was just fine with. For those of you who don’t know me, that is NOT how I usually am. But on this night and at that moment, I was finished. They took me to a local hospital and my parents met me there. A psychiatrist talked to me which was a complete waste of time but when it became evident that my parents weren’t my problem, they allowed my mom and dad to get closer to me. They told me if I came home with them they would take care of me and find an appropriate place for me to get help. They explained to me that if I was going to stay there, that I would be given IV medications and that wasn’t the kind of help I needed. So, they gave me valium, I became more stable, and I went home. And then just as my parents promised, they found me a wonderful place for me to go the following day where I was able to talk about my issues in an environment that was not in a hospital setting.
I have learned a tremendous amount about mental health over the past year. I have experienced firsthand the enormous pain that comes with mental illness. I don’t consider myself a mentally ill person…and I am still unsure what exactly what means. But regardless of the terminology, we ALL need to be sensitive to the emotions and feelings of other people. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as nursing our physical health. Our emotional well being affects our physical health to a large degree. Mental illness is nothing to laugh about. When you have a chronic illness, or know someone who struggles with one, that person is most likely going to experience some type of emotional pain. It would be weird if they didn’t. Going through illnesses like ulcerative colitis or crohns disease can be DEVASTATING!!!!!!!!! Seriously, if I documented everything I have gone through, or even 10percent of it for most of you, I guarantee the majority of you would literally stop breathing. If that was at all possible to prove, I would do it without question.
Mental health issues are something that I think we as a society are getting a little better at handling, but I don’t believe we are quite there yet. The more we can do to raise awareness, educate others, and share our own personal stories, the easier it will be for those people who are suffering silently to reach out and seek help.