Juggling posting with ill health

Diagnosis:

I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder 7 years ago and with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) in addition, 3 years ago. On top of that, I also have a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis. I have attempted blogging in the past as I love to write but struggled to combine writing on a regular basis with ill health. A few months ago I set up this blog as I decided I didn’t want to give up on my dream of writing for an audience as well as that I wanted to raise awareness of life with mental illness and to increase understanding and tolerance.

So far, so ok. I have blogged as often as I can but not as often as I’d like. As well as the mental illness and the pain and fatigue of the AS I also have a reduced immune system thanks to a couple of the drugs that I’m on for my arthritis. As a result of this I am more likely to pick up infections and, once I have them, struggle to fight them off. This weekend was no different.

I had an infection, I felt rotten all weekend, my sleep pattern was all over the place and so was my blogging. Blogging with physical or mental health issues is always a struggle, with both it’s even more of a challenge.

Physical disability and blogging:

As a result of my AS I spend a great deal of time struggling with pain, fatigue, mobility issues, restricted movement and, as I mentioned, a reduced immune system. My pain levels have a huge effect on my productivity. When it’s at its worst the best thing I can do is crawl into bed and lay flat on my back (AS effects my spine as well as knees and hands). When the pain is more manageable I can do a lot more but there is a tendency then to over-do it which can effect my levels of pain and fatigue. Pain can make even something as simple as sitting on the sofa to use my laptop a next to impossible task. A lot of the pain I get is at the base of my spine so as you can imagine, when pain flares up, sitting is a challenge.

The best thing I can do is balance activity but in that planning, include a great deal of flexibility. It’s important to make allowances for yourself when you’re living with chronic pain or any chronic illness for that matter (physical or mental). The other thing to do is to schedule in activities for times when you know that you will be feeling at your best (for example, an hour after taking pain meds) and rest periods for times when you will feel less good.

Fatigue:

Fatigue is another challenging part of having AS. AS causes fatigue for two main reasons, levels of pain tire out the body and disease activity can exhaust it too. Fatigue is so frustrating. I’ve experienced it as a result of physical and mental illness and personally I think that having fatigue due to a physical illness is more frustrating (although it’s a close run thing), this is because you have all the mental energy and focus to do things but your body can’t keep up with it.

Ways of managing fatigue are similar to those of managing pain but the most important piece of advice I can give is to never feel ashamed of needing to nap. In fact scheduling in naps in between periods of activity, is probably a good idea. When I’m struggling with fatigue I feel sheer exhaustion and my concentration can be affected as a result, including blogging. The important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up because of the symptoms of an illness (any illness) that you didn’t choose to have.

Mobility issues:

Mobility issues may not seem to be something that could have an effect on blogging, especially for someone who owns a laptop, but things aren’t always that straightforward. As a blogger, there are things that I would like to do that involve leaving the house, for example interviewing people, for my fashion blog getting out and about taking photos of stylish people in public, for my beauty blog attending events such as a new make-up launch as well as attending blogger meet-ups and conferences. I often feel like I’m missing out because my mobility is limited meaning that I’m on crutches, can’t travel far without assistance and get tired easily.

Some solutions to the problems I have as a result of my mobility problems are pretty obvious, others less so. I can interview people by phone or email and I can get involved with online blogger chats. The thing is though, sometimes you can’t beat meeting people face-to-face and I crave that often. I have access to a PA and taxis for meet-ups closer-to-home but as someone who doesn’t live in a big city these are few and far between. It would be so nice to meet people face-to-face and bounce ideas off each other. On the positive side though, I am very grateful to my online community for providing me with support, encouragement and a feeling of belonging when I would otherwise have felt very much alone. I haven’t been disabled all of my life so I can still remember what it was like to have an active social life (not that you can’t have an active social life with a disability-I just happen to find it much more of a challenge). The internet is a real gift for people who struggle to get out as a result of ill health.

Restricted movement:

Having restricted movement links back to the previous two issues fatigue and mobility problems. I can’t get around easily because of my disability and also have to be careful not to sit in the same position for too long either or the pain will kick in. If I use my hands for too long (writing or typing especially) they can start to hurt or feel swollen. The best thing I can do is to take regular breaks and try not to beat myself up when I have to stop because of pain.

Low immune system:

My low immune system is a real nuisance. The average person with a cold or virus can manage to soldier on, however much of a struggle it may be but when you have a low immune system it really takes everything out of you to fight something like that off. The best thing I can do when I’m like that is to do the little that I can cope with and get the much needed rest that I need.

Mental illness and blogging:

As a result of mental illness I struggle with fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, depression, mania as well as suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

It’s even harder to blog with mental fatigue as it feels like you have complete brain fog. Any mental effort results in such extreme tiredness that the smallest tasks can take all day. All you can do during times like that is have patience with yourself and try not to beat yourself up (however easy it can be to do). Again balancing activity with rest and picking your best times of day to do those things that are the most mentally draining. The other thing is to stop comparing your ill self to you when you are healthy or manic. I’ve done this so many times and it simply achieves nothing. It doesn’t help you to work any faster and the negative mental energy you spend on telling yourself how rubbish you are could be better spent focusing on the task at hand or having some much needed relaxation time.

Anxiety is a hard one to deal with too. Anxiety can place similar barriers around you to that of someone with physical mobility issues. You often isolate yourself, struggle to go to new places or meet new people. As well as that it can affect your energy levels (panic attacks are incredibly draining) and a fear of criticism could mean that your writing never gets to see the light of day. As far as anxiety is concerned, small steady steps are what work best. There is even a type of therapy that suggests this: gradual exposure therapy when you confront your fears gradually by starting with the challenge that scares you least and gradually upping the fear factor. The other thing I recommend is trying to be as honest as you possibly can with people (easier said than done I know). Not everyone will understand but it beats people simply thinking that you don’t want to spend time with them. Taking regular time out of your day to do things that relax or comfort you also helps.

Paranoia can work in some ways similar to anxiety in that it is all about fear. The problem is that while I suggested for anxiety being honest with people about your problem, the very people that you need to be honest with are often unreachable either because your paranoia is about them so you don’t trust them or you’ve confided in them but they either react badly or say the wrong thing or just don’t know how to help or what to say. The best things you can do in this situation is to firstly, find someone who you trust and who reacts well and confide in them, seek help from your mental health team if you can and educate family and friends about what helps and what doesn’t as well as tell-tale signs to look out for, when you’re well and feeling clear-headed.

Depression can lead to fatigue, anxiety, extreme negative thinking and in worst cases, suicidal thinking and behaviour (which I’ll talk about later). The best things I would recommend if you have depression is to seek help from a qualified medical professional as you may need counselling, medication, or in some cases support from the mental health team and/or hospitalisation. Try to find a loved one or friend that you can confide in and be as honest with them as you possibly can although that can be scary at times. Doing something nice for yourself each day is a big step forward, something as simple as a pampering bath can have a positive impact. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. The Samaritans are just one of many organisations who provide advice and guidance to people who need someone to talk to who can keep their issues confidential. http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us .

Mania can be just as terrifying as depression in some cases. That feeling of being out of control, engaging in risky behaviours, impulsivity, not being completely yourself. The best thing that you can do is seek help. Confide in a friend or family member and/or a health professional. When you’re well plan for periods of mania by setting out what you can do to help yourself and who you can contact. You might have lots of creative energy but find it difficult to focus on one task at a time. Try to spend time on calming activities like listening to a relaxing CD and if you don’t feel safe-tell someone!

Suicidal thoughts or behaviour:

Suicidal thoughts or behaviour is probably the hardest thing of all on this list. If you feel like this then please don’t put any expectations on yourself as far as blogging, only do it if it helps you to feel better. If you feel like this then please seek help or confide in someone. I’m really sorry that that’s the best I can come up with despite having felt like this many times. The only other thing that can help short-term is any kind of positive distraction. A favourite CD, TV programme or book, spending time with someone you love. But you will still need to seek help as you only have so much energy to distract yourself with in the day. Telling someone, although difficult is a positive step towards keeping yourself safe.

There are many similarities and differences between physical and mental health problems and their impact on blogging. People are generally more understanding and supportive of physical illness as it is something that they can see obviously and find easier to relate to. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness but also ignorance that younger people can have physical disabilities.

Physical and mental illness can also interlink and impact upon each other. Have you ever felt depressed because you had the flu? Anxious because of the pressure of a disability? In the same way have you ever felt that your mobility was restricted because of a mental illness?

Things to remember:

When blogging with a physical or mental health condition, or both, the important things to remember are regular rest, flexibility and be kind to yourself whilst not forgetting to seek help as soon as possible. Do you blog with a physical or mental health condition? How do you find it and what are your tips for keeping going? Please feel free to comment on this post, add me on Twitter @spursbythebeach or email brokenglassshimmers@hotmail.co.uk . If you like what you’ve read today, for more mental health posts on a regular basis (usually shorter than this) follow me. Thanks 🙂

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About brokenglassshimmers

I’m 30 and have BPD and arthritis. This website will detail how I deal with my health issues, reading and writing. I am in the process of writing books and I will keep you posted about how that is going. I also want to run an online book club and writer’s circle. Please feel free to comment on the site and to let me know if there are any improvements or changes you would like to see. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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