Plagued by Anxiety: The Psychological Effects of Lupus

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by Kellie McRae |

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I think that every time I’ve shared an article lately, I’ve talked about symptoms of lupus related to mental health. While I don’t particularly care for the pain, the fatigue, or the physical afflictions of lupus, the things that have caught my attention lately are more psychological. Several months ago, I started seeing a therapist. She has been amazing, and she’s helping me deal with some things as I continue to learn about my “new normal.”

In my last life (that’s what I’m calling it these days), I was so sure of myself. I would have down days, but I never considered those moments as real depression. I also had no experience with anxiety. It would be comparing apples to oranges to try to figure out which of these two animals is the most vicious. I could truly do without either, but lately, anxiety seems to be on the prowl.

It has been creeping into everything I do. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night in a full-on panic, panting like a dog, heart racing as if I had just run for my life. I try to calm my mind by reminding myself that I’m still alive and that everything is fine.

It’s bad enough when I’m jolted awake, but now it’s permeating my day. One thing I pride myself on is keeping my stress level as low as possible. Part of the way I do that is by monitoring how and with whom I spend my time. I have shared often that I am a self-proclaimed joy junkie, so I do my best to spend more time on things that are positive in nature. However, I am human, and sometimes I allow some negative things to creep in.

Unfortunately, the effects of this negativity are not always easy to detect until they are out of hand. I have been doing my best to fill up my time by doing the assignment my therapist gave me designed to combat depression. Because of this, however, I believe that I have underestimated or completely missed some signs.

I have previously experienced anxiety and panic attacks in my sleep. During the day, when I felt overwhelmed and like I was about to go stark raving mad, I was able to reason with myself and talk myself down. Over the past month or so, that has become a bit more difficult. I’ve found that even while I’m just sitting still, the underlying feeling of doom and panic is brewing. It seemed to be growing, and talking myself down was becoming a longer, drawn-out process.

Even the activities I enjoy that I have been using to help combat depression and anxiety have been causing it. This has had me worried. For instance, when I’m sewing and the article I’m working on is not cooperating, I get this weird sense of doom, as if the garment has taken control of my life.

I’ve shared that I have started hosting a biweekly networking coffee, and you would think growth would be not only good, but welcome. Well, the last coffee had more people than usual and things did not go as planned. I felt anxious during the entire meeting. Normally, I stay afterward to socialize. This time, I felt like a caged animal and I just had to get out of there!

When I got home, I just had to sit for a few hours doing absolutely nothing. Just when I thought I had things under control, my phone rang. I live in Mexico and I am still learning the language, so when the speaker was going on and on, speaking rapidly, I tried to tell her I could not understand her. I tried to find out why she was calling; I had no idea whether the call was important or not. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and as soon as I hung up, I started crying uncontrollably.

The tears were the perfect release valve. Once I was able to relieve the tension, I could review the cause. I realized that while I am working to combat depression, I need some days all to myself, doing absolutely nothing. I don’t know what the point of anxiety is, but I realize that the remedy is not the same as what I am doing for my depression. I have decided to become more in tune with my mental needs, as well as my physical ones.


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.


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