So during my rheumy appointment, I was quite emotional. I was feeling very depressed. It felt like I was sitting in a very deep pit and could not see even a glimmer of light. For me not seeing light was equal to the feeling of no hope, no end in sight. The pain was not easing, fatigue was a battle daily, some days I could walk with a limp and other days I found it hard to even walk. I knew I was an emotional train wreck that day as I sat in the rheumy’s office, but I have always been straight up during my appointments, no sugar coating anything because I felt if I was anything less than honest I was only doing myself an injustice for my care and treatment. Well the rheumy says, “You are an emotional mess today. This is beyond me to treat this. You need to see a psychiatrist.” Well I have been in the medical field for 16 years as an RN. I have even helped develop and open a psychiatric unit at our hospital and worked on the unit for a while. As much as I hate to admit, I often referred to some of our patients to fellow co-workers that they were all a bunch of “crazys”!! Now don’t get me wrong I do believe in the process of mental health and the treatment of brain disorders. But now I was facing my true colors and putting myself in the same category of the “crazys”. Was this my payback? Is all of this really in my head and I am just making myself believe pain is worse and is my fatigue really just a disguise for laziness? All of these thoughts, questions, ideas were swirling around in my head literally making me dizzy. I wanted to just wrap my hands around my head and scream for someone to let me off this crazy ride!!!!
I walked into the psychiatrist office. Signed in and sat down to fill out the 10 pages of questions all about my mental health, feelings, drug use, addictions, etc. For a moment I actually thought to myself I don’t need to be here and began to get up and walk out. But something inside of me said “stay”. I was nervous to meet the doc, i was nervous he would think I was a drug seeker, I was nervous that I was going to have to convince him that I had RA with true pain, fatigue, emotional swings, depression. When the doc came into the room he first asked why I was there. I felt the tears filling up in my eyes. My voice was shaky and it literally was difficult to get out the first words. The doc was compassionate and just sat there for me to pull myself together to mutter out a few words. “I have been diagnosed with RA” was all I was able to get out. He leaned over, touched my hand and said. “that has got to be very devastating to get a diagnosis like that”. OH pure relief….He got it from my few words I had sputtered out!! I know I must have let out a huge sigh of relief. The rest of the appointment went smoothly. It is amazing the load that is taken off our backs when someone validates our feelings.
All of this is to encourage each and everyone of you that if you are suffering with depression, please seek out someone that is experienced in that area. I found out that clinical depression, major depression, anxiety all the things emotionally that we deal with the diagnosis of RA is really a brain disorder, a chemical imbalance. If you were having heart problems you wouldn’t seek help from your gyn you would go to a cardiologist. So it is the same with the emotional aspect of RA, don’t seek help from your rheumy he’s not trained in this area seek out someone that specializes in brain disorders.
So through all of this, I found I am not one of the “crazys”. I am a normal person that is having a very difficult time with a body and mind that does not know how to comprehend the greatness of having an autoimmune disease. So I challenge each of you to work on your mental health as much as you are working on your disease. They go hand in hand and know I am with each of you as we walk this journey of a chronic illness.