How to Manage Depression and Chronic Pain

How to Manage Depression and Chronic Pain

by Coach Jill Csillag

Jill After

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the type of person who views the glass as half full vs. half empty. I’ve managed to find humor in almost any situation, and maintain an upbeat and optimistic attitude towards the challenges of life.

That is, until Rheumatoid Arthritis entered my life a little over 2 years ago. In case you aren’t familiar with RA (most people aren’t), it’s a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles, and can even affect the organs. RA is NOT the same “arthritis” that Grandpa has, so please don’t tell me how a Tylenol or Advil a day helps him and that I should try it.

Basically, my body is attacking itself, and if aggressive treatment isn’t initiated, deformity and damage will set it.

RA is life changing. RA hurts.

Treatment for RA is no picnic. Oftentimes, chemotherapy drugs are given to slow the inflammation process, as well as a host of other medications to suppress the immune system and reduce pain and swelling. The amount of pills I ingest two times a day plus meds I self-inject is utterly ridiculous. Who has room left for breakfast when you have a belly full of pills?

RA (or, Arthur as I like to call it) has significantly impacted my life. I ran my 4th marathon just a few years ago, strong as a horse and without difficulty. Now, just getting out of bed takes all the energy I can muster, and I’ve developed a shuffle for a walk because of the pain in my feet. I’ve learned to appreciate a nap in the afternoon so that I have enough energy to get thru the evening.

As a personal trainer, my goal is to help my clients grow stronger and become healthier, yet I struggle to grasp 5 pound dumbbells because my hands are so weak.

I demonstrate a proper lunge with an encouraging smile on my face, while my knees are silently screaming out in pain.

When I’m in a bad flare, my husband has to cut up the meat on my dinner plate because I simply can’t manage the knife and fork.

Sometimes I feel that my life is a paradox.

Does this make me angry and depressed? You bet it does. There are days I am mad as hell about it, and I want to stomp my feet and throw myself on the ground like a toddler having a tantrum. I’ve been mad at God about it and yelled at Him. It’s not fair. Why did this happen to me? I’ve tried to take such good care of myself the past 15 years, and bam, Arthur has tried to take everything away from me. Everything.

However, I won’t let him. I am stronger than him, and he will not defeat me. I am a fighter.

Half Full vs. Half Empty

I am blessed to have a wonderful network of support surrounding me. My husband and daughter are awesome and willingly do anything I ask of them without question. I have a small circle of friends who know about Arthur and will ask questions and offer support whenever I may need it.

I have a great team of doctors, from my GP to my Rheumatologist to my Orthopedist, who all work together to ensure I am receiving the best care possible.

However, there is a downside to some parts of this wonderful support system. You see, because I have RA, many times family & friends will compliment me by saying “You are so strong!” or “I don’t know how you do it!” or even “You really shouldn’t push too hard….”

Sometimes I feel that I have a perfect excuse to take the easy way out.

I don’t like excuses. I never have and I never will.

I’m afraid if I succumb to the “Well, I do have RA” mentality, I will do less than my very best.

Arthur has already compromised my immune system, my joints, and my stamina.

I refuse to let Arthur take away my passion, my drive, and my will. Those belong to me, and I will fiercely protect them.

It has not been an easy road to travel with Arthur along for the ride.

There are days where I just want to stay in bed curled up, feeling sorry for myself and watch trashy TV.

Occasionally I may indulge this desire and use it as an opportunity to regroup, rebuild, and get my act together. Then, I am able to dust myself off and get back to the business of living.

It’s vital to acknowledge ALL of your feelings, the good, the bad, and the ugly; not just the fuzzy feel-good ones. You can bet that sprinkled among the sunshiny days there will be some storm clouds brewing from time to time. That’s life. We all have ‘em.

Just as a muscle grows stronger when it is broken down and rebuilds, so can the heart and soul.

It’s during the times of darkness that we grow the most and learn what we are really made of.

There will be challenges and there will be joys in your life. You can count on this.

Remain steadfast in your resolve and don’t compromise your integrity or beliefs. Rely on your faith and lean on God to get you through.

Hang on and don’t let go, no matter what. Tomorrow is just around the corner.

Thankfully, for today at least, I still see my glass as half full. How about you?

Which will you choose?

Chronic Pain

The Hope Toolbox

The Hope Toolbox

Throughout this series, each of us is creating My Hope Toolbox, your own personal list of resources you can use for the bad days. Whether it’s go for a run, listen to music, or sit in the sunshine, we all need activities we know will help move us toward healing, even when we don’t FEEL like doing them.

What will you add to your Hope Toolbox today?

Check out My Hope Toolbox Printable Kit to create your own Hope Toolbox, or use any journal of your own.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse: 

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Peter 5:9-10

Today’s Journaling Prompt:

If you deal with chronic pain, what is your biggest ongoing struggle? What lessons have you learned from your experience? Have you grown in faith or has it pushed you away from God?

Helpful Resources:

Her View From Home: Living with Chronic Illness

A Day to Day Adventure: Difficult Diagnosis of Pain and Fatigue



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