As someone with the chronic illness lupus, I am constantly teetering on the line of losing all self-control. Like a high-wire artist, the pole that I hold to balance me, is my children, friends, family, and my doctor. But what happens when your balance is screwed up? I usually try to hide my depression, and often try to hide it from those I love most.
Following is a list of five ways some people try to hide depression from their friends and family, which I do not recommend that you try at home. Lupus and depression can be isolating enough. If you are struggling, please find the help you need.
Cut Out All Friends
Recently I was faced with kidney and lung issues, finding myself broken-hearted by thoughts about where my life was going. I had systematically cut out most friends, as I no longer had the energy to go out and do thirty-something activities. My friends don’t have lupus, and I realized I was punishing them for not having a disease that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was causing a separation from my friends, and I realized I was only punishing myself. I was detaching not only myself, but my boys, away from the world that loved and treasured us so dearly.
Stop Returning Family’s Calls
My stepdad calls me every two weeks to check on me. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I go three weeks without calling him back. I try so hard to push my family away, but every time I do call him, his answer goes something like this: ” Well, finally I get a call back. I thought you didn’t love me anymore! So, tell me whats going on with my favorite daughter.” Every. Single. Time.
This man, who isn’t even my real father and who has four daughters of his own, makes me feel like a diamond every time I talk to him. Why on earth would anyone push someone like that away? Because of lupus and shame. I’ve always been the kid in the family that pushed all limits and exceeded all expectations, but I can’t push this one. Lupus has full control of my life. But my stepdad never blames me or shames me. He simply loves me. And I love him.
Lipstick and a Smile
My grandma always told me if you don’t feel well, put your lipstick on, wear a smile, and no one will know the difference. While great advice for a normal person, for someone with lupus not feeling well is a sign that something is wrong. Faking it is a sure-fire way to make sure no one knows what you’re going through. Unfortunately, faking it leads to breakdowns of monumental proportions. Life isn’t meant to be faked. It’s meant to be lived.
Give Up on Love
You read that right. Just give it up. Why do we need someone to hug us when we are at our lowest? Because studies have shown that just a simple hug can increase the oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin can decrease depression in most individuals. What does that mean? A 2015 study found that “oxytocin has analgesic effects, leading to a reduction in perceived pain intensity and lower pain ratings when participants were subjected to brief radiant heat pulses that were generated by an infrared laser.”
The study also found that “Hugging protects people who are under stress from the increased risk for colds [that’s] usually associated with stress,” notes study lead author Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. Hugging “is a marker of intimacy and helps generate the feeling that others are there to help in the face of adversity.”
Turns out, a hug a day actually DOES keep the doctor away.
Stop your lupus treatments
Stopping your medications can throw your body, and therefore your emotions, into a tailspin! It is never a good idea to stop your medications without talking to your doctor, no matter how bad they make you feel. Yet, I have stopped taking my medications multiple times. Typically, I find myself in the ER due to those unwise choices. You wouldn’t expect your doctor to give up on you, and if you do you might need new doctor. But you should never give up on your medical treatments.
It turns out hiding depression from everyone is much harder when those are the exact people we need to be leaning on. Lupus makes it so easy for us to just curl up in a corner and give up. Most of us have family, friends and doctors. But we also have lupus networks like this one. We MUST rely on these groups so they can help us keep it together when we cannot by ourselves.
There are times when I lean on my friends, but there are times when I know they have no clue what I am going through. And I certainly can’t just call my doctor every time I am crying in my bath water.
If a woman cries in a forest and no one is around to hear it, did she even cry at all? Hell yes, she did! Then she scraped herself off the bathroom floor, took her lupus medications, hugged her boys and wrote her first article about depression and lupus.
I don’t always have it together, just like many of you. But I am a warrior and, just like you, I will never give up.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.