When Your Illness Takes Away What You Love

Hello lovely readers! I profusely apologize for the long wait for a new post! As I shared earlier this past summer, I have been dealing with a number of new diagnoses, although I’ve been struggling with many of the illnesses for years already. I knew I was slipping down a slope physically, and one of my biggest indications was I kept slowly losing the use of my hands due to extreme pain in my fingers. It got to the point where I could barely type, text, stitch up bears at work… anything using fine motor skills. I’ve been working hard at physical rehabilitation in my hands with an occupational therapist, but my that was only half the battle.

While I was working to regain the use of my hands, we discovered that one of my issues is that I suffered some nerve damage from an old suicide attempt that affected the function in my ring and pinky fingers on both hands. It was a tough pill to swallow, and every time I did my physical therapy exercises, I felt like I took a punch to the gut and wanted to cry. The thought that I, in part, did this to myself was disheartening. It was a painful reminder of how scary that portion of my life was.

The pain in my fingers was significant enough that I had to give up playing piano, long texting conversations, video games, card games, and writing blog posts for a few months while I worked on rehab. I’d experience fatigue almost immediately, and recovery time was hours, if not days. I had to save my hands for the 6 hours a week that I worked, and even then, I’d have to occasionally ask for help stitching up the bears. I was given special hand and wrist braces to wear at night while I was sleeping, and thumb and finger splints to wear during the day.

My usual ways to cope with my mental health were the activities listed above. So I suddenly found myself spiraling deeper into intrusive thoughts and increasingly more anxious. I was left to watch an endless amount of TV and was growing increasingly more restless. My suicidal thoughts increased, and I relapsed into an unhealthy behavior (not cutting, I’m still clean in that regard). I realized how much of my worth I found in being a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and that my self-esteem was not as strong as I may have thought. I found myself thinking that I only mattered because the people I was helping and the people in my life mattered. In my mind, my friends were all incredible people, and I knew I had a positive impact on their lives, but failed to see that I too was an incredible person. When I couldn’t text them to see how their day was, the lies in my head began that I was useless. To perpetuate the problem, I couldn’t write my blog posts to help others. And I couldn’t escape these intrusive thoughts that I was useless by playing video games or jamming out with the piano. I was stuck in a place where my illnesses had taken away some of the most important things in my life.

It took a lot of psychotherapy and some adaptive devices for my hands to pull myself out of the rut. I realized that on a different scale, I’ve been dealing with grieving things that my health has taken away from me for a while now. I had to grieve things like not being able to go to college, not being able to dance, and not having a full-time job because of my illnesses. That realization helped me remind myself that I’ve been through similar things before, so I knew I could make it through this slump. I started playing more board games that my hands could handle, doing crossword puzzles and wrote small pieces of a blog post at a time rather than writing it all at once. I worked on getting over my stubbornness and pride so I could ask for help with things that were hard for my hands to do (still working on that…). I still experience a lot of anger and frustration over the partial loss of the use of my hands, but I’m taking things one day at a time.

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