The Interplay Between Chronic Depression and Chronic Pain

It’s a drizzly Saturday morning, and slated to be a very rainy day. By 3:30am, I had washed all my bedding and my pillow, showered, and made my breakfast and lunch for later in the day. This is what waking up at 1:15am does. Although I stayed in bed until 2:30 or so, the morning felt really long. I think I sleep especially poorly because I rested too much yesterday afternoon. I didn’t nap or fall asleep, but I reclined on the couch for hours, not even using my brain or working. I felt too sick to sit up, work, or go outside. My stomach was upset and I had a mild fever; I’m not sure if I ate something bad, had a little virus, or was experiencing a delayed systemic reaction to all the wasp venom. I’m still really itchy and inflamed in my ankle, foot, and calf region.

Surprisingly, despite waking up so early, and only sleeping intermittently before that, I’m in a great mood this morning. There’s no apparent reason for my happiness, so I think it just boils down to being less achy, itchy, and bloated than I normally am. Plus, it’s the weekend and I get to spend time with Ben! It’s true that my joints are still a bit sore, my stings are still itchy, and my stomach is a little upset, but these are such muted levels of these symptoms compared to what I’m used to contending with. If nothing else, this change in diet experimentation, which has significantly lessened most of my major physical symptoms, has made clear that a key contributor to my chronic depression is clearly the terrible pain, medical problems, and activity-limiting sickness I have felt for the better part of the past decade. Chronic clinical depression is usually a multi-factorial problem, and it certainly is in my case, meaning there are numerous factors at play that both cause and perpetuate it. Genetics, neurotransmitter/chemical imbalances, lifestyle factors, stressors, health issues, family problems, etc. are some of the more common factors for chronic depression. (I’m making a distinction here between someone who is almost always depressed, or at least depressed for an extended period of time, versus someone with acute depression, or situational depression who is more likely to be feeling depressed because of an event or situation (death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, etc. I am by no means a mental health professional, so this is just categorization I use. It likely has zero clinical validity.)

For me personally, I have chronic depression and then can have acute exacerbation of increases severity due to troubling situations that arise. Some of my contributing factors are rather non-modifiable, which is partially why I’ve been battling this mental illness since I was ten years old. Up until this week, I was confident that debilitating pain and stomach distress, severe enough to preclude me from many activities both in and outside of the home, would ALWAYS be one of my proverbial crosses to bear. While it’s far from gone or resolved, just the fact that it finally made a step in the improvement direction after years of constantly getting worse gives me hope that maybe the chronic illness factor will become less of a majority player (I don’t think it’ll ever go away or be eliminated from my depression equation). If my busted body would allow it, this exciting revolutionary advancement is enough to make me jump up and click my heels in glee! Although it’s uncomfortable to toot my own horn, all of this makes me acknowledge how much of a trooper I have to be (and have tried to be) day in, day out, year in, year out. Add these horrendous, constantly-plaguing medical symptoms to things like my trauma, and it’s no wonder I struggle to maintain any semblance of true happiness and feeling “well.” Maybe things will improve enough with my health that my joint and stomach pain, and constant digestive problems, that I won’t have to fight quite as vigorously (which is exhausting!) to present with a decent mood. That would be a miracle, both for me and for everyone with whom I have a close relationship. It’s hard not to get ahead of myself and dream of this more manageable future; I know it’s still too soon to tell how I’ll feel over time, but hope is a beautiful, and long lost power, which has now re-entered the scene.

We don’t have any big plans today. I’m still nursing the stings, but am pleased to report they are getting better. Because it’s supposed to rain all day, the bulk of our activities will be indoor ones. It will still be an enjoyable day. It’s important that I put in several hours of work because I fell quite shy of my target yesterday due to my illness. Other than that, it seems like a great day to peruse the various sources I frequent for reading material for the upcoming week. I have a hankering for some sweet love stories.

 

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