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Today Will Be Better: Managing Mental Health With Chronic Conditions

Editor's note: This article discusses suicide and mental health issues.

Dave Courtney lived a truly fascinating life. Growing up in a similar area of South London as myself, Dave made a name for himself in the criminal underground scene and gained notoriety as somewhat of a tough guy. He went on to brush shoulders with the likes of the infamous Kray twins and later recounted many of his extraordinary encounters in this world on podcasts which I thoroughly enjoyed listening to.

In fact, one of the main characters from the film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" is based on Courtney and some of the plot is written around his experiences.

Against all odds, he went on to sensationally turn his life around and became a successful author and actor. Not to mention the amazing things he did in his community, especially when it came to raising money and awareness for autism charities.

I was shocked and upset to find out that Dave passed away last October.

The video

Like all celebrity deaths, sometimes it takes a little while for information on what exactly happened to emerge. Several weeks later, a video was released of Dave shortly before he sadly took his own life in which he explained his decision. Of course I knew that watching this clip would be upsetting, but I did not imagine that it would hit so close to home.

Dave revealed that arthritis was "crippling him up" and he had decided to take his own life as he was tired of disguising a lot of pain and feeling like he needed to hide the fact that he struggled with stairs and getting in and out of his car. If my jaw joints weren’t so stiff, it would have hit the floor.

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He had clearly done an incredible job of hiding these struggles from the outside world. Even as someone with an invisible illness, I  couldn’t see any of these signs. It just goes to show the devastating effects arthritis can have when even someone as famously tough as Dave Courtney had massive struggles living with it.

Society needs to take arthritis a lot more seriously. In my experience, most people tend to think that it is just a bit of joint pain that happens to old people. But sadly this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is an illness that can plague every aspect of life, both mentally and physically and it doesn’t discriminate on who it chooses to attack.

Opening up

It isn’t just wider society that needs to take Arthritis seriously though; those of us living with the condition need to as well. Particularly when it comes to the mental implications of living with such a condition.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that we are going to go through tough times. These stressful and frustrating days can wreak havoc on our mental health. However, there is absolutely no reason why we should suffer in silence. Reach out to friends or family and open up about how you are feeling and vent about the things in your life that your condition is causing problems with.

I think that us men in particular can struggle with this side of things. We are notoriously bad at talking about our feelings and arthritis is jam packed with feelings. Whether it’s the physical pain and stiffness we experience, or the mental burden of living with a chronic condition.

I used to be guilty of bottling up all of these feelings inside. Instead of blowing off some steam by opening up to those close to me, I would let my mental health spiral downhill and release my anger by lashing out on walls and inanimate objects. This did nothing but cause damage to myself and my personal property!

When I finally felt confident enough to speak about the struggles I was going through with family and friends, I felt a huge weight fall from my shoulders. The feelings of anxiety and depression shrunk massively and this enabled me to be in the right state of mind to look after my body and manage my conditions better. Any dark thoughts that I may have been having, soon disappeared.

Connecting with the chronic community

That being said, I understand that it can sometimes be hard when speaking to people who don’t live with arthritic conditions. It often feels as though they don’t understand what we go through as they have been lucky enough not to have experienced the horrors of living with arthritis first hand.

But you most definitely aren’t alone. There are millions of people out there who are living with the same or similar conditions. Don’t ever feel that you are alone in this battle, because you are absolutely not. I have met some of the most incredible human beings online that are also chronic illness warriors and have built amazing relationships with them.

In my experience, they have all been fantastic and open to discuss any aspect of chronically ill life because they know it all too well. I have formed wonderful relationships with fellow spoonies. At times we act as each other’s therapists, talking through and often joking about all the hurdles that are rudely thrown our way.

I don’t want to come across like I am tooting the horn for this website, but communities like this are amazing ways of connecting with people that understand every aspect of the life that we have been forced to live. There are also plenty of other groups and accounts on social media where you can meet arthritic allies. Support is never more than a little bit of typing away!

We are all in an eternal battle against this awful condition, so we may as well stick together and form alliances with others to ensure that this pesky disease never keeps us down.

Final thoughts

Looking after your mental health is just as important as managing your physical health. It is bizarre how normalised it is for people to ask for assistance when they have physical issues, but it still seems taboo to do the same when it is a mental issue.

If you ever feel your mental health deteriorating, please know that there is absolutely no weakness in reaching out for help. Sometimes it doesn’t even need any outside assistance, don’t ever feel guilty about treating yourself to a self care day or two to clear your mind if you need it.

Sure, life with an arthritic condition can be very hard at times, but that doesn’t stop life being an incredibly beautiful thing that is worth living every single day we are blessed with. Remember that sometimes we have to go through the rain to get to the sunshine.

My thoughts and prayers go to Dave Courtney’s family and friends at this tough time. But despite his extraordinary life coming to a very sad end, he left behind a lot of joy and happiness in this world.

So, let me end this article on a positive note by sharing a quote by Dave that I think is rather beautiful & an excellent mindset to live life by:

"I couldn’t tell you what I did yesterday, because today was better"

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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