Lupus, Depression, and Self-Harm, Part 1

Editor’s note: Content warning – This article includes experiences with self-harm.

I wanted to write about a sensitive issue that perhaps doesn’t get talked about as often as it should: depression and self-harm.

I always think it’s important to write from the heart and share my own personal experiences because there is often others out there that are going through similar situations and there is nothing worse than feeling like you are the only one.

Having lupus has taught me to open up more when it comes to talking about my feelings. Years ago I’d just bottle everything up and pretend I was fine. I called it the 'plastic smile.'

I held a support group for fellow lupus patients and it was from that I realized it wasn’t just the physical attributes that were so hard for people to deal with but it was also the emotional side of it too.

Lupus overwhelmed me emotionally

Having any chronic illness can leave you feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Often it’s the feeling of mourning for your old self, the frustration at not being able to do all the things you once could, The lack of understanding from others or the loss of your job and income. The list is endless but in some cases, it can have a huge impact on your emotional wellbeing.

I think the tipping point for me was when I lost a pregnancy due to being so unwell with lupus. I wrote a previous article about it which gives more detail but I just remember feeling so hopeless at the time. It was after that I started to have an urge to scratch my arms and sometimes my stomach.

Understanding my self-harm

People self-harm for all kinds of reasons but for me it was a feeling that my body had let me down and it was useless. I was punishing it for not working properly and for taking my baby away.

I would have to make excuses if anyone questioned what the marks on my arms were. I always tried to wear long-sleeved tops to hide them.

I sought help for my depression

I didn’t do it all the time. It was sporadic but I realized that I needed to seek some kind of help, so I visited my doctor. It sounds silly but I felt too ashamed to mention the self-harming, so I just talked with her about the depression. She was very understanding and put me on anti-depressants and offered me a course of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

I started taking the medication, however, I found it made my lupus symptoms much worse. I would have to sleep for hours after taking it which wasn’t good. I went back to see her again and she tried me on a different type of antidepressant but the same thing happened.

I realized at this point I was going to have to seek another form of help for my emotional challenges.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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