24 May 2019
When your mind and body become a battlefield
The body image focus of the recent Mental Health Awareness Week is still resonating with many people. This account recalls one ongoing struggle and how therapy is helping.
“I have long had a diagnosis for Depression and Anxiety, it is something that swirls around me periodically, but largely I felt I had it under control and I was proactive with making sure I was not overwhelmed. This, however, dramatically changed last year when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
Although I had been dealing with symptoms of Crohn’s since my early 30s the shock of the diagnosis was sharp. I felt like my body had betrayed me and my mind was complicit. For the first six months of the diagnosis I struggled to accept the changes I needed to make to allow my body to heal and get healthy. I refused to let the symptoms slow me down, even when they worsened, and eventually I stopped listening to my body completely.
During this period I felt like my mind and my body were going through a messy divorce and my mental health deteriorated as much as my physical health. There were several reasons for this; I was suffering with fatigue because my body couldn’t hold in nutrients, I was anxious because I was unsure of the treatment pathways, and the symptoms kept me isolated and unable to socialise.
When I finally reached out for help dealing with the implication of Crohn’s on my mental wellbeing I felt like I was in crisis. My consultants and doctors advised me of the link between anxiety and Crohn’s and recommended CBT Therapy, which helped to identify that I had some medical phobias that needed to be addressed. From CBT I was also referred onto Psychodynamic Group Therapy, where I am working more thoughtfully through the roots of my anxiety.
I think I will be working on the rift between my mind and my body for some time to come, but at least now I can acknowledge that they are not separate but intertwined. When this relationship is dysfunctional both my Crohn’s and the depression and anxiety will be triggered. However, my health, both mentally and physically, is improving and stable which makes me hopeful.”