We are about 10 months into this global pandemic and lockdown and truth be told, it is getting me depressed. Anyone living with sickle cell anemia is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and so it is important to look after yourself and stay safe. I am told to shield; meaning stay home, avoid non-essential travel, crowds and public areas and anyone who are sick. It is equally not helping that one hears through friends of someone they knew, their friend or family member who has died of COVID-19 and other natural causes. Also one has friends who have had it too.
To top it all, I get emails sent to me by the hospital saying I am under the category of those who are clinically and extremely vulnerable because of sickle cell. I also get regular texts from my doctor’s practice about how I need to stay indoors and look after myself indoors. Then I turn on the TV and they are talking about the thousands of people who have died all over the world. I look at WhatsApp and more messages or texts about coronavirus. COVID-19 is with us and it’s about someone who has it, has had it, going through it and ultimately died or recovered from it. This is all too much and emotionally exhausting.
People with sickle cell disease, not all, go through one pain or the other daily and they become familiar to pain and keep it moving. Such a person might be getting on with his or her life but underneath it all, that person might be depressed. It is difficult to explain to anyone that yes, as I am talking to you right now, I’m actually in pain or that as we are laughing, I am in pain. For someone who already has health challenges like sickle cell disease, and to be told to not go out (I know it is for our good), it is really too much to bear.
All what I am saying is that what is going on all around the world can set one back psychologically, on top of having sickle cell disease. If you go to see a doctor and tell the doctor about being depressed, the doctor would want to find out what is going on with you, in terms of what are you thinking of. It is known that when one has some medical conditions, like sickle cell disease, whereby one has excruciating pains, it can be linked to mood swings.
For years now, doctors have looked into the link between pain and depression. Several researches have been done in this area, research has shown that depression does play a significant role in chronic pain. Let’s face it, pain and depression are friends because there is no way one would be in pain and be in a good mood. Pain and depression are both intertwined to the point of creating a nasty cycle. Pain can worsen one’s signs of melancholy and vice-versa. When one lives a life of constant or regular pain, over time, it will in no doubt affect one’s mood. Chronic pain crises in sickle cell disease can most certainly lead to depression and manifests in lack of sleep, stress, lack of interest in anything, hopelessness, fatigue, or one constantly being on the edge.
The issue of tension and melancholy caused from chronic crises or constant pain can be so overwhelming and this in turn has the possibility to consciously get worse and lengthen the pain. When pain escalates, it can also intensify depression, thereby making one feel worse and forming a sequence of depression and pain that could be difficult to shake off. The thing about sickle cell disease is how unpredictable it can be. The volatility of sickle cell disease is enough to make one depressed. Can you imagine having an important event coming up and the day before, a few hours before, one falls ill and can’t take part in the event and yet, one has been preparing for it for such a while? Sickle cell disease can make one depressed for sure.
When the pain starts, you have to take care of the pain because not doing so, could mean the pain intensifying. The pain could last for days or weeks or one could live with pain all the time. Many factors lead to a crisis, stress, the weather, hydration, unwholesome nutrition, physical activity, a fall or bump and sometimes it can start with no cause, just the blood cells clotting and more.
And they say one of the treatments for depression is talking therapy: they say that talking therapies can help one work out how to deal with adverse feelings or one’s mental state and emotional state and make constructive changes. When you are worried or troubled and you keep over-thinking things, it will most definitely not help your state of mind. But talking about your thoughts and feelings can help one deal with one’s state of mind. Talking to someone you trust about your emotional state and opinions can help you deal with troubled periods in your life.
If you have no one to share your thoughts with, the worry can grow. Talking can help you work out what is at the bottom of the worry and it can also help you explore options regarding what to do about it. And being listened to will make you feel cared for. If you can find someone to talk to about feeling depressed, it will improve your mood. It is important to have a positive mindset because of your mental health and wellbeing. During this lockdown, we have come to recognise that staying indoors is not good for us.
Another treatment for depression, other than tablets, is stress-reduction practices: these can be physical activity or exercise. Or you could look at other interest/activities such as baking, cooking, reading, writing, learning a language, going for walks, painting, learning coping skills, planting and any other hobby you might be interested in. Now is the time to learn new skills.
As medical science keeps improving, we know that new discoveries can help improve our understanding of the biology of depression. These advances could pave the way for even more effective treatment with new drugs and devices. Better understanding of the genetics of depression could also usher in an era of personalised treatment.
Until then, try and help yourself if you suffer sickle cell disease, so that you do not sink further into depression with this lockdown that we all find ourselves in.
If you would like to get in touch with me about this column or about sickle cell, then pls get in touch: email@example.com and do visit my blog – http://www.howtolivesicklecell.co.uk
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