First things first, M.E is not a mental health condition.
However, the devastating impact it has on the lives of patients can trigger mental health issues such as anxiety, PTSD and depression. That’s not entirely surprising considering M.E is a life-stealer. It turns outgoing, sociable, life-loving human beings into empty shells of their former selves. Mental health issues become symptoms of M.E.
Because many doctors convey the message that M.E is psychological there is a fear that admitting our mental health issues is going to reinforce the false idea that M.E is psychological. I worry that this prevents patients from speaking out about their struggles with mental health. I have mental health issues myself. I have had PTSD, depression and anxiety for 6 years following an assault. Completely unrelated to my M.E but now my M.E has entangled itself to these additional diagnoses. My mental health gets mentioned within every referral I have whether it is mental health-related or not, almost insinuating that of course I struggle, I have M.E – a psychological condition (wrong). I understand the patient fear because I am one member of the patient community. The additional PTSD, depression and anxiety noticeably de-value the M.E diagnosis within people who have the false idea that M.E is psychological. I have heard first-hand that any talking therapies I have for the PTSD/depression/anxiety will ‘help with the M.E’. It will help my M.E just as much as it would help a cancer or Parkinson’s patient with their illness. Talking therapies might help me to deal with my restricted life, it might provide me with coping strategies, but it does diddly-squat in terms of tackling the M.E itself.
My advice would be to talk. I’m currently going through a bad couple of months depression-wise and had been bottling it up, but then my squad stepped up! Feelings of being a failure are a daily occurrence. Thank you so much to Retha Viviers (ME CFS South Africa) and Gill (@mecfsmum on Twitter) for always being on the end of the phone whether that is via Whatsapp voice message or phone call. You two ladies have supported me immeasurably and have helped by letting me talk things through.
If you are struggling and not coping I would recommend talking to loved ones or friends. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, please….please….phone the Samaritans- 116123 (or equivalent depending on what country you live in). There is always SOMEONE for you to turn to. Please never think that you are alone. Specifically, if your M.E is what is affecting your mental health don’t forget that the M.E Association has M.E Connect. They have M.E-knowledgeable advisers at the end of the phone to help you.
It’s hardly surprising that suicide is a worrying issue within our global community. M.E has the lowest health-related quality of life when compared to cancer, diabetes, lupus, stroke, heart disease, and chronic renal failure. Many M.E patients are usually poor and are existing rather than living life.
Don’t become a statistic, talk about it.
Love Sally (and Foggy OBVIOUSLY)
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