Living with a chronic condition can have a detrimental effect on the sufferers attitudes or mental health. Many people experience disbelief from both the public and medical professionals during their fight to achieve an accurate diagnosis. Due to this many choose to refrain from openly talking about mental health conditions and passed traumas with doctors and those close to them. Often this becomes an early defensive behavior that is learned in on order to prevent pre-emptive judgement.
In 2012 during my fight for a diagnosis I found myself in the John Radcliffe for 8 days as I had developed Pain Triggered Non Epileptic Seizures, and my Dystonia had spread from my jaw to my eyes. I was very honest about my past with the consultants in charge of my care. I expressed that I had suffered physical abuse during my teenage years, that I had sought help and that I was now in a much happier place. I still view being honest with the doctor in charge of my care as a mistake however, due to the fact I had had this unfortunate experience I was informed all my symptoms were psychosomatic, and that I need neuro-psychiatric contact. As I’m sure you can imagine I did not take this well. I remember clearly stating that I would go talk to their psychiatrist, purely so I could jump through their hoops and prove them wrong.
Mere months later I had my diagnosis of Dystonia and a letter from my neurologist stating that my past experiences had no impact on my current state of health. That letter has not stopped doctors and acquaintances questioning me over the years though. On numerous occasions I have been asked if I am depressed. I am generally an optimistic person who loves nothing more than to laugh. Yet being repeatedly questioned has its impact. I am defensive of my health, I feel like I have to justify myself and that leaves me feeling vulnerable. For if people struggle to believe me when they can see the physical symptoms in front of them, what else will they close their mind too? Vulnerability is an emotion that too many sufferers of chronic illness experience. It comes in both physical and emotional forms. One of the best things a person can hear is ‘I believe you’. It is an empowering statement that allows us to relax and breath. Acceptance free of doubt opens up a line of honest communication. Something that we all need.