Writing has always been a type of therapy for my struggle with ulcerative colitis. Lately though I think I need more because honestly, I feel stuck and unable to move on. So today, I’m devoting this post to discussing why I’m considering seeing a therapist.
This post is sponsored by BetterHelp, who are committed to encouraging conversations around mental health-related topics by working with organizations, websites, and bloggers like me.
As my very traumatic and frequent serious health problems fade into the past with each passing year, I keep thinking that suddenly everything will be all right again. I’ll be finished with my health problems, I’ll be fixed, and I’ll be able to move on with my life.
Although I haven’t been hospitalized in three years now, my problems haven’t disappeared. Surgery didn’t cure my ulcerative colitis and joint disease. They lessened the impact. But nothing can fix a broken immune system. My body is still a war zone, unsafe and untrustworthy. The collateral damage is just less severe now.
The constant fluctuation of my health and my inability to cope has left me with a lot of negative feelings that, in addition to the physical limitations, is intruding on my ability to live my life. And I think I need help beyond sharing my feelings in writing.
Why I’m Considering Seeing a Therapist
My dad is a pilot for Southwest and pilots often talk about their families in the cockpit. During one flight, the co-pilot talked about his daughter, who also has ulcerative colitis. She’d been through the surgery as well and had almost died while on the operating table.
He mentioned that she had started seeing a therapist, which brought up a lot of anger. Her outlook was always so positive and he thought it was interesting how seeing a therapist had unlocked a dam of underlying emotion.
I started seriously thinking about therapy after this because I’ve always been really positive as well. But what deeper feelings are beneath that shiny veneer?
Sharing with others has always helped me
Writing here on my blog does force me to look at those rougher feelings and expose them to the light of day. And in that sharing process, I always come out feeling better and more knowledgeable.
- I didn’t know I was having anxiety attacks while on prednisone until I was talking with a friend who was seeking therapy and medication for her anxiety. Because I was on prednisone I just assumed they were physical symptoms and that there was nothing I could do about it.
- I didn’t know that it’s fairly common for people who have chronic medical conditions to experience post traumatic stress until I shared descriptions of my feelings on Instagram. People shared their similar experiences with me and a friend told me her doctor said it’s a form of medical induced PTSD. Suddenly I had a name for all those feelings that made so much sense.
It had been a feeling in the back of my mind for a long time, but I didn’t acknowledge it because I felt like I didn’t have the right.
I didn’t have the right to claim I was suffering from PTSD. Only people who have suffered through war, terrorist attacks, dangerous jobs, or physical and mental abuse can use that term.
So instead, when I wrote about what I was experiencing, I used words like haunted and superstitious, comparing my struggle to a horror movie.
Ulcerative Colitis and Post Traumatic Stress
As of right now, I don’t know for a fact that I suffer from some of the effects of post traumatic stress. But it’s very likely that I do.
Chronic disease is a constant threat to your safety and rather than being an external threat, it’s an internal one.
Medical induced post-traumatic stress is still understudied but in one study, of the people that had medical-induced PTSD, “41% attributed their PTSD to a digestive disease, most often inflammatory bowel disease.”
The greatest predictor of PTS among IBD patients include:
Some symptoms of post traumatic stress include:
- Re-living trauma in constant intrusive thoughts and flashbacks
- Fragmented memories that have no narrative
- Hyperarousal of symptoms, which makes me afraid of being perceived as a hypochondriac
I’ve experienced all of these to varying degrees along with feelings of:
- That my j-pouch will fail and I’ll have to go back to having a stoma
- About my future in general
- My financial security and being able to make a living while suffering from a chronic illness
- Building any new strong relationships with people (especially in regards to dating)
- The emotional and financial burden on my family
- That my pain and suffering is still unmanageable sometimes even though other people (including myself in the past) have had worse happen to them
- That I sometimes lose control of my body
- Of the medication I have to carry around to help me manage my symptoms (hemorrhoid creams and wipes, diuretics, gas relief meds, etc.)
- Living with my parents and not being able to be independent at my age
- At myself for not being able to cope and balance my health and career
- Of my symptoms
- For not being able to move on
Steps I’m Taking
So far, I’m exploring three different options:
- The pilot my dad flew with gave him the number of the therapist his daughter is using
- I’ve looked at the various options Kaiser (my medical provider) has available
- I’ve browsed and marked the therapists I think might match my needs through BetterHelp’s therapist page
What I end up going with will depend on cost, availability, and ease.
When other people talk about seeking therapy, it feels really positive and I think it’s great. But suddenly when it’s myself I’m scared and delay in taking the first hesitant steps. It’s going to take some courage to call the numbers, pick the therapists, and make the appointments but it needs to happen.