How Psoriatic Arthritis Affected My Mental Health
Last updated: June 2021
Throughout my life, I’ve chosen to go to therapy. I made this decision a small handful of times to get some help with my mental health. The first time was just after my daughter was born. I was in the throes of postpartum depression and found myself face to face with the meanest person I’ve ever met.
That tactic didn’t work for me and she nearly scared me away from therapy forever. I tried again a few times and found subsequent therapists to be very nice, but nothing ever worked as a long-term relationship. Until I met Alison.
The decision to stop making excuses
During my introduction to Alison, as a way of ensuring that I made the most of my appointments with her, I said, “my name is Julie and, if you let me, I’ll lie to you.” I needed her to know that I understood that this appointment was about me, not about her.
This was where I had gone wrong in past sessions. I tell the therapist what I think they want to hear. “Of course, I took your advice. It was amazing!” (I didn’t take her advice. Do I even remember what it was? Now what?) Plus, I grew up in the 70’s when we hid our crazy, so I certainly didn’t want anyone to know how messed up I thought I was.
So, I made excuses for myself. “Yes, I cried all day but maybe it’s just because I chopped an onion earlier. I think I’m fine. We probably don’t need to talk about it.”
Finally finding someone who will listen
So, here I am with Alison, having admitted that I lie to therapists. Now what? I’m going to have to be honest with her. It felt like we had just started talking and the hour was finished. The next week when I went back to see her I shared more about my history, and again, the hour passed quickly. It's hard to believe that we've met almost every week for the past three years since there was a time when I would have sworn I'd never go to therapy again.
I told Alison things that I expected would bring a look of shocked horror, but her face didn't change. She just listened, as if what I had to say was not really that big of a deal. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I wasn’t as messed up as I thought I was. It was so nice to have someone who heard me, someone who validated my thoughts and concerns, someone who cared.
When physical symptoms became mental symptoms
Having an established relationship with a therapist when I found myself in crisis was a lifesaver. Maybe literally. When the pain in my low back and leg became so bad that I could no longer work, I had difficulty coping. I missed my job, my routine, and my friends. It felt like I wasn’t contributing to society. In many ways, it felt that I had nothing left to live for and my constant pain was only exacerbating these feelings of sadness.
I felt this was a crisis, but I did not want to talk about it. I remember sitting in Alison’s office, crying, telling her that sometimes it was hard to want to live. I was very afraid that when I left her office, there would be an ambulance waiting for me. But there wasn’t. She didn’t freak out. She made this conversation safe. And made me feel better.
The impact of saying words out loud
As the weeks passed, I became more comfortable talking about it. I shared with my husband how I was feeling. “Lately, I’ve been having suicidal thoughts.” It was hard. He didn’t freak out. He listened. And he took care of me. Saying those words out loud changed something for me. The words made the thoughts dissipate. They made the feelings lose their shape.
The chronic pain from psoriatic arthritis can be so difficult, even for the strongest of us. A good relationship with a licensed therapist will ensure that if you find yourself in a crisis there will be someone to help you. If the first one you visit doesn't feel like the right fit, you deserve to find one who does.
If you ever feel like giving up, tell someone. Seek help. We have resources easily accessible right here on this site. I would also like to share another resource that helped me, that's partnered with a message of hope, I encourage you to visit A Beautiful Day Tomorrow.
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