With any medical problem, it is expected that our doctors and other health care providers help solve our physical complications. But, when it comes to emotional complications, we tend to deny and ignore the effects and not seek help. Depression is a perfect example. Nearly 40% of dialysis patients will experience signs of depression some time during their treatment. Seldom are symptoms acknowledged; to doctors, family, even patients themselves. This leads to a downward spiral of further physical and emotional complications for themselves and their caregivers. Family and friends may notice the symptoms, but don’t know how to respond. If they do respond, it is usually an inappropriate response of denial or anger at the patient. And sometimes as patients, we have to admit, we are not always so easy to get along with.
You do not have to be a psychologist or professional counselor to understand why depression and other emotional problems occur with an illness like Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). You have experienced a significant loss. Your life has changed, and you may fear that your future has changed forever. These thoughts often are not shared because of embarrassment or fear that they will not be understood. We hardly understand ourselves what is going on. Keeping these thoughts and feelings bottled up is what leads to depression, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions. When experiencing loss, it is normal to go through a grieving process and have many of these feelings. Some of the loss experienced is real, but worse than the reality of loss, is the perception that it is overwhelming and is never going to get better.
Throughout the time of our disease we often are able to continue working and maintain our daily routines. The people around us see changes in us physically, but can’t see how we feel. If they don’t talk about the physical changes they see, they certainly are not going to talk about the emotional challenges we are dealing with.
Normal grieving means denying that it is happening, feeling sad, and getting angry. Although these feelings are “normal”, they make it difficult to function normally and maintain healthy relationships. The less we talk about how we feel the stronger those feelings become. It is no wonder that so many people with CKD deal with depression.
Asking for help is difficult to do. Our self confidence has already been shaken because we do not see ourselves as the person we used to be. Somehow we have become less than whole and fear it is going to only get worse. Asking for help feels like it is accepting those beliefs. The truth is just the opposite. When we ask for help and talk about how we feel, we open ourselves up to a different point of view: One that recognizes the truth of our weakness, pain, and other side effects, but also accepts the reality of HOPE!
Dialysis can be a pain, but it keeps us alive and able to function. Transplant surgery is major surgery. Recovery takes time and can be difficult. Honestly, for myself, I know at times it has been very difficult, but I also know it was well worth it. It has given me my life back – a life that has more purpose, more gratitude, and more faith than I ever had before.
The longer you go without talking about how you feel and ignore your emotions, the less healthy you become and the harder it will be to recover. There is no question that our physical state affects our emotions. It should also be obvious that our emotional state affects us physically. You know, even when others don’t, when you are not feeling emotionally right. Ask for help! You will find it is the first step toward healing – no different than when you ask your doctor for help with your physical symptoms.