Mental Health and Ankylosing Spondylitis
Last updated: January 2022
I’ve said from the start of this disease that I personally believe therapy is key in managing this disease. I had mental illnesses prior to being diagnosed with AS, but they weren’t as severe as they are now, with the disease. Mental health plays a huge part in having ankylosing spondylitis.
How it affects me
Just like any illness, my mental health has good and bad days. I was officially diagnosed with severe depression and social anxiety in 2018, right after my diagnosis of AS. I’d had both for a lot longer, but having chronic pain and an unknown illness is what prompted me to get professional help. Once I got the diagnosis of AS, I knew this was exactly what I needed.
Introducing chronic pain and fatigue into anyone’s life would cause their mental health to decline, I would think. As I said, I was depressed before I ever had AS, but being diagnosed with a chronic illness at the age of 22 added a whole new layer to my depression.
Before I would worry about trivial things, I would stress over more of the social aspect of my life. Now, I become depressed at the drop of a hat some days. I think about how this illness will never leave me, how I’ll always be in pain, and that this is my new normal. It’s scary, and it hasn’t really gotten easier over the past 4 years.
Thank god I’m in therapy. I can’t stress enough that therapy has saved my life on multiple occasions.
What I do to treat my mental health
I’ve been through a few therapists in the last few years. Now, I’ve found a therapist who is also disabled, and only treats disabled people. It’s definitely helped me become more accepting of my disability, and cope with my new, disabled life.
We mostly just talk. We talk about my frustrations, my sadness, and what I can do to combat these feelings. Most sessions I just find that talking to someone that gets it is what I need the most. Even if it’s just once a month, talking to someone who knows the disabled experience helps me so much. I don’t have to explain why showers are so exhausting, or how hard it is to get out of bed some mornings. She just gets it.
Apart from therapy, which I do semi-regularly, I do a lot of journaling and self-care. I know self-care has had a big spotlight over the past few years, but it truly is important. Whatever self-care means to you, you should do it. My self-care includes watching Twitch streams and petting my cat. It doesn’t have to be face masks and baths and meditation if you don’t want it to be.
How journaling has helped me
Journaling has become a big part of my life in the past few years. I’ve done both guided and unguided journals, and at this point, I prefer guided journals. With my brain fog being particularly bad the past 6 months or so, I can’t always think of prompts. There are all sorts of guided journals out there, and you can find which ones appeal to you the most!
It helps me to physically get my words out on the page. I love that pen-to-paper feeling, but you can also just journal on a word document! Whatever feels right for you, do it.
What do you do to help your mental health?
Has changing your diet helped manage your pain and flares?