When I broke my arm (8/2011), I was completely unprepared for the emotional roller coaster I was launched on. Frustrated, depressed, distraught, I cried over the least little things, even sobbing as if the world was coming to an end. One night my husband was a little later coming home that I anticipated, and I was panic stricken when I couldn't reach him by cell phone. I paced outside on the dark sidewalk, past midnight, for about half an hour, crying and crying in a full-blown meltdown.
More recently (11/2011), I spent several hours in the E.R. due to an abscess. Once in the treatment room, I could not get any cell phone signal, to call my husband and have him come over with a belated meal. When he finally showed up on his own recognizance, I broke down in tears, sobbing so hard my nose was running and I couldn't breathe well enough to eat what he had brought.
Illness and poor health can have a profound impact on our emotional wellness, unbalancing our hormones, isolating us from friends and family, disrupting daily routines and employment attendance. Worry over income disruptions, an inability to focus or concentrate, bills continuing to pour in when we can't adequately monitor our budgets, all these things can disrupt our emotional wellness and make our efforts to get well more problematic and rocky.
Finding emotional wellness in this stormy sea is difficult but vitally important. The frustrations and depression of illness can too easily tip over the edge into suicidal thoughts and ideations. This is especially true with long-term invalidism. While suicide is a solution, of sorts, it should rightfully be the solution of last resort. Every effort should be made to achieve emotional wellness during such trying periods.
If you are on a diet, to gain or lose weight, quit. Eating better quality foods and more balanced meals, even eating more frequently and in greater measure, will speed up the healing process. When I broke my arm, I found myself always hungry, around the clock, and eating small meals every 3-4 hours, night or day. Yet so much of my healing efforts were concentrated on the broken bone and twisted muscles, that I experienced terrible dry skin, sores, zits, boils, rashes, edema, and an abscess. And I still managed to lose about 18 pounds over the course of three months.
Don't be afraid to take pain relievers if you are in pain, even if they result in swelling or other side effects. Pain only intensifies feelings of frustration and depression. Take whatever you need to take, as needed, take your prescribed medications as directed, and rest, rest, REST! Don't exercise, don't try to read War and Peace, don't plan exertions, and don't commence any projects. You may not learn to love soap operas but they are a great way to bore yourself to sleep. And think of all the great trivia you'll be able to share with your acquaintances next holiday, watching all those educational daily shows.
Pampering can go a long way towards soothing distraught nerves, lowering blood pressure, decreasing elevated blood sugar, and increasing serotonin. Have your helper(s) not only bathe you, but add fragrant, moisturizing unguents to your shower or bath, like Epson Salts or essential oils. Get their assistance in washing your hair. Have them frequently examine your entire body for problems, and treat each one appropriately. Get yourself a pedicure or manicure, if you can. Enjoy warming teas and hot cider, hot soup, hot cocoa, or a small serving of chilled wine (ensuring it will not react with your medications, causing more harm than good). Indulge in forbidden comfort foods, daily. Wash and change sheets and bedding frequently, using fragrances other than lemon, which stimulates the brain and interferes with sleep (Dr. Oz).
Meditation may be beneficial, and help promote rest. Take your pain relievers and assume as comfortable a position as you are able. Use headphones and listen to something pleasant and soothing. If your helper(s) remains present, and monitors you closely, you can safely apply a heating pad on its lowest temperature setting with minimal risk of falling asleep on it. DO NOT use a heating pad at any setting if there is any possibility you'll fall asleep without someone present to turn it off at a preset time. Burns are common otherwise and you don't need to add to your misery.
Massage, cuddling, even very gentle sex, can go a long way towards easing frustration and depression. Don't strain your injuries in any way. Watching a boring movie in someone's arms is a great way to fall asleep when you've had difficulty doing so.
One of my greatest frustrations was my inability to manage my websites or socialize on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. If you can afford a handheld communication device, get one. Use Dragon Naturally Speaking or other software to dictate your thoughts, inspirations, and messages. Try to maintain some level of communication online, to fill in when your helper(s) are not available.
Interacting with animals has been demonstrated to soothe and ease long-term medical conditions, by decreasing anxiety and depression, among other things. Your pets will sense that something is wrong with you and will adjust their behavior accordingly, even if they don't understand what your problem(s) are. Take the time to spend time with them whenever possible, petting, playing, or just sitting side by side.
Now is not the time, however, to introduce a new pet to the household, if you don't have any. Adjusting to a new home is an interaction-heavy activity and you just aren't up to it. Don't increase your helper(s) burdens by adding to their responsibilities. If you have no pets at home, you can borrow one from your helper(s) for a few hours. While cats won't enjoy a new territory, even for a few hours, dogs will love it. Birds, however, should not be moved from place to place unless they are already accustomed to doing so. And fish? What's the point? You'll have more interaction with a fish program on the TV.
Finally, last but by no means least, Celebrate!
Every little milestone, every tiny improvement. Lost one pound? Celebrate! Taking fewer pain relievers? Celebrate! Can finally tie your own shoes again? Celebrate! Have a donut, a sample serving of ice cream, add something expensive to a plain food dish. Buy a new CD, order a Red Box movie, check out some new material from the library or buy a new book. Boost your emotional wellness in tiny, incremental steps, where big steps are way beyond your capacity to cope.
It is not impossible to find emotional wellness in the midst of illness or injury, major or minor. It is difficult, yes, but not impossible. Much rests on social interactions, good and plentiful meals, adequate rest, and pain relief.
This website is for information purposes only and is not intended to be, or to serve as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.