No one escapes life without some sort of injury. If you’re like me, you don’t escape a day without some sort of injury. I’ve written a post on dealing with medical situations and doctors, but I haven’t written anything about dealing with physical illness when you have a mental one. It’s like a one two punch to the groin and totally not fair.
This month, I’ve both sprained my shoulder and torn my meniscus. (I’ve been pretty unlucky!) However, the process has reminded me to take care of my physical self as well as my mental self. There is a very strong connection between physical health and mental health. For example, people with chronic illness are more prone to depression and mental illness has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. When the two systems are so bonded, you can’t manage one part without managing the other.
So, how do you treat your physical injuries while at the same time maintain mental wellness?
Ask for and accept help when you need it.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time asking for help. I feel like I should be able to handle everything on my own, but sometimes that’s just not within my ability. Ask your partner to cook or order take out. Have your friend hand you your crutches or carry your backpack. The benefit of having a physical illness is that there’s no stigma and people know how to help you. While someone might not know what it’s like to be psychotic, most people can relate to the flu. Use that to your advantage!
Keep your supplies handy.
Most people have a medicine cabinet. Keep yours stocked and ready to rock. For example, the Red Cross has a good list for a first aid kit. If you keep all of your supplies together, you won’t have to search for the Tylenol when you’re under the weather.
I like to keep two groups: one is my as-needed medicine drawer. That’s where I keep the decongestants, bandages, and stuff I don’t need too often. When I see a sale for any of those items, I stock up and make sure something’s always there. If I’m psychotic and have a sinus infection, I don’t have the wherewithal to hunt down the stray NyQuil under my bed.
My second stash is a basket filled with the things I need on a daily basis. I store it next to my favorite chair, and that way I can grab what I need without having to roll out of my chair with a knee brace to fetch it. This is where I keep my daily medication, blood pressure cuff, blood sugar monitor, and other things. You could even throw in some stress balls, DBT diary, snacks, iPod, and whatever you need to get through a tough moment.
Give yourself time to amend your routine
Like mental illness, chronic physical illnesses need time to be properly treated. For example, let’s say you’ve been diagnosed with IBS. One of the treatments for it is the FODMAP diet, which I talked about here. It’s a huge lifestyle change to which it takes time to adapt. Start slow and take the time to learn what you have to do to make it better. Your doctor should provide you with treatment options, and you can do some research online to learn more about your condition(s). The small changes are the best ones, and if you have to change your lifestyle in a big way, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
One way to manage this is a week-by-week approach. Start with making a list of the lifestyle changes you need to make. For example, let’s say you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and have a list of modifications you need to make. You can start out with one change a week, giving you time to get used to it before you move onto the next one. For example, the first one might be to replace the soda in your diet with water. It’s a small change that can lead you toward a lifestyle alteration without the overwhelming and defeating thoughts of a total makeover. It may take time, and at some points can be challenging, but it’s never hopeless.
Treat yo’ self!
Keep in mind – you’re sick! Do what you need to do to get better. Have a cold? Slurp some chicken soup! Fever? Grab a blanket and Motrin! Tired and mad at the world? Curl up in your bed, tell the world to f-ck itself, and watch Parks and Recreation! Even if you fight mental illness each day of your life, it doesn’t mean you should fight through every illness. Sometimes, you have to relax and give your cold/broken toe/strep throat/whatever the time it needs to heal. For some ideas, you can check out this PopSugar article.
Is some of these suggestion obvious? Of course! But I hope you find them helpful. Stay strong!