Lupus, Depression, and Self-Harm
Last updated: March 2023
Content note: This article describes experiences with self-harm. If you or a loved one are struggling, consider reading our mental health resources.
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 experiences because there are often others out there that are going through similar situations. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are the only one.
Lupus has taught me to open up more when discussing my feelings. Years ago, I’d 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 greatly impact your emotional well-being.
The tipping point was when I lost a pregnancy due to being so unwell with lupus. I wrote a previous article about it that gives more detail, but I remember feeling hopeless. After that, I started to have an urge to scratch my arms and sometimes my stomach.
Understanding my self-harm
People self-harm for various 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 I needed 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 in 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.
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?