For the past several months, I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety. Almost all of my mental health issues can be attributed to my declining physical health. The Cystic Fibrosis (CF) I was diagnosed with at six and a half months of age has always affected me but has been progressively stealing my life for the last two years or so. Most notably, I now wear oxygen 24/7 because I can’t take in enough oxygen on my own. There is still no cure so I have limited options. The most likely scenario is that my lung function will eventually decline to a point where my quality of life is severely affected and I will make the choice to undergo a double lung transplant with the hope that it is successful and I can get a few more years out of my life where I can breathe freely for the first time ever with the help of someone else’s lungs.
As one might guess, having mortality staring you in the face at the age of 23 is a difficult pill to swallow. It’s something my family and I always knew was coming. I have always been a very stubborn overachiever and, as such, have always been quite hard on myself as far as the expectations I have for myself and the way I speak to or treat myself are concerned. With my health now worse than it’s ever been, the pressure to do absolutely everything I can to take care of myself is immense. And I felt like I was cracking under the pressure.
Since the fall of 2015, I have become pretty withdrawn, spending most of my time in the basement TV room. I am often sad, stressed, worrying over multiple scenarios in my head, easily overwhelmed, and anxious. My appetite and sleeping habits have suffered, I’ve stopped exercising, and my motivation to do anything is severely lacking. I talked about my issues with my long distance fiancé constantly, and my parents expressed their concern for my mental health but I couldn’t seem to snap out of it on my own. The only thing I did know, thanks mostly to my fiancé, was that I needed to work on taming my inner critic because it was pretty out of control.
At the beginning of June, I met with a psychiatrist who the adult CF clinic had just brought on board for an hour-long assessment. Unsurprisingly, she believed I was dealing with depression in reaction to an adjustment I was making in my life (adjusting to the new circumstances surrounding my health, needing oxygen 24/7, etc.) and that the anxiety I had always been able to deal with and keep under control was now running amuck. I agreed that this was a fair assessment and we talked about a plan to deal with these issues. The month between this appointment and my next with her was full of anxiety and instances where I would get so anxious or worried or overwhelmed that I would get caught up in my head and have a hard time moving past it or making decisions. I would either end up crying or doing something to distract myself and avoid what was going on. That month was extremely stressful for my fiancé and I, and my parents. However, I did feel like I was making some progress when it came to recognizing when I was beating myself up as I was able to do that more often. I also had an incredibly helpful BodyTalk session that reminded me to listen to my inner guide, not my inner critic or anxieties, and to let myself sleep without feeling guilty or being hard on myself for doing so because my anxiety riddled mind needed the time to recoup.
My second appointment with the psychiatrist came at the beginning of July and was only a half an hour long which I didn’t think was long enough. She mentioned that we needed to do some work on acceptance and I recounted to her my most recent episode of anxiety. She told me about core beliefs and said that the initial or superficial thoughts I seemed to be getting anxious about probably weren’t the real source of the anxiety. Using that episode of anxiety in retrospect, we did an exercise where she taught me to ask myself what this means for me and my future over and over until I can’t get any more answers. My final answer is my core belief and is most likely what is causing the anxiety. We didn’t complete the exercise but the core belief we stopped at was: The CF is winning. This statement upset me of course, but I didn’t realize until later the significance of it. I was sent home with the homework of finding the core belief every time I had an episode of anxiety. I was frustrated after this appointment because I was impatient to figure out what was going on with me and start feeling better mentally and emotionally.