3 Years Later, or How a Chronic Disease Can Mess with Your Mind

Living with addison's disease

At the end of the summer, I passed the three year anniversary of my crazy week in the hospital and subsequent Addison’s diagnosis. It came and went and I didn’t really notice until a week later. If you met me today you’d likely be surprised to learn of my condition. With some management and daily medication, things have returned pretty much to pre-diagnosis normal. Mentally, however, I find it can still get a bit rocky at times. Turns out being suddenly diagnosed with a chronic disease can mess with your mental state a bit. 

While I didn’t notice the actual anniversary day, I did notice my upcoming annual endocrinologist appointment. This is the yearly check-in where they run all sort of blood tests and check various hormone levels. The tricky thing about endocrine chronic conditions is that they tend to come in bunches. If you’re lucky enough to get one, it’s likely you’ll get another. That idea makes the time leading up to these appointments stressful. 

And stress can mess with your chemical balances and mental balances. The whole thing is a vicious cycle if you let it get going. And it’s hard not to let it get going. You can tell yourself very rationally that you feel fine, that you are fine, that everything at the appointment will be fine, but then again, you did get an extremely rare chronic disease out of the blue. Sometimes the unusual happens. And if it happened once, couldn’t it happen again? Couldn’t that niggling leg pain be something worse? Is it normal to feel this tired? The mind is a devious opponent.

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Living with addison's disease

So how to fight back? First, just having a good support system around you to help reassure you and support you (or take your mind off of it) is an immense help. Second, is to understand that it’s completely normal to get freaked out by doctor’s visits. You just can’t let it overwhelm you. Third, and the most hard earned lesson, is that you should strenuously argue against yourself. Biologically, we survived this long by being wired for pessimism. Optimism doesn’t actually come naturally, but you can learn it. Bad events occur and might have a large impact in your life, but they are not permanent and they are not unchangeable. Keep repeating that.

How did my appointment ultimately go? I was fine. There are things to watch and things to track. Bad things still might happen. Eventually. But that’s the future and I can’t predict that. What I can do is strive to be optimistic, positive and hopeful. I think hopeful people make better future plans.



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