Health Related Issues
At some point in our lives we will all experience significant changes in our well-being and health.
Primarily it is our physical health that will be affected however 1 in 4 of us will also experience a deterioration or alteration in our mental health. Some of the changes are part and parcel of the normal ageing cycle but some will also be as a result of lifestyle choice, the onset of serious medical conditions or illness or the result of life limiting or life changing trauma or accidents. Some will be experienced as temporary issues and some will be chronic or permanent. Not all the changes in our health status are negative and the change experienced might be one of improvement such as in the case of corrective surgery or adopting a healthier lifestyle.
When your health changes you may find yourself experiencing a whole range of feelings from the time you see your first symptom signs through diagnosis, treatment and the long term prognosis. These can include anxiety, stress, sadness, elation, anger and fear.
Age related Issues
As we get older our bodies change and parts of us start to see a little wear and tear. Some of the common physical changes are:
Deterioration of sight and hearing
Stiffness of joints and muscles
Age related diabetes, heart and renal function issues or deterioration in major organ function.
Losing skin elasticity and the development of wrinkles
Incontinence & general muscle control issues
Menopause and issues relating to changes in hormone levels.
Changes in libido
While all these conditions are “natural” and often gradual they can leave you feeling frustrated that you cannot do things as quickly as you once did or sad that when you look in the mirror you no longer recognise the face you see. You may have feelings of anxiety and bewilderment about how you will cope as you get older and what the future holds for you and your relationships with those around you. You may also start to spend an increasing amount of time worrying about your mortality. You may have to contemplate doing things differently or letting go of some of the things in your life that you can no longer do and that can leave you feeling sad, resentful and at a loss as to what to do now. You may also experience the anxiety associated with diagnosis and treatment of age related conditions.
Lifestyle Health Issues
The choices we make about how we conduct our lives can have a huge impact on our health and well being. Due to the well publicised scientific research and the subsequent campaigns about issues such as healthy eating, obesity, getting enough exercise, smoking, drinking and stress management we all know that an imbalance in these areas may result in us suffering deterioration in our physical health. We can experience the same feelings as those associated with age related health issues but we may also struggle with feelings of guilt or shame that we “have caused” this ourselves and then feel unable to speak and seek support from people around us. This can lead to a sense of isolation and depression.
Sometimes seemingly positive lifestyle choices can also lead to similar feelings. So someone who has chosen a very active and sporty life can find themselves suffering injury or deterioration in their joints and require treatment. Conflicting feelings of guilt and resentment are common and if the physical health changes result in a person not being able to do the sport or activity they love; then there can be huge feelings of loss. Equally a person who adopts a healthy eating regime and drops a huge amount of weight may find themselves with positive physical health benefits but experiencing anxiety about the expectation to keep the weight off or a loss of identity.
Serious illness and life limiting or changing trauma
Sadly despite our best efforts and the advances in safety measures and medical research; some of us will develop serious life changing and sometimes terminal medical conditions or we will have an accident or suffer physical trauma that is life limiting or altering.
These could include some of the following:
Loss of limbs or use of limbs
In addition to all the feelings associated with any change of health status, will be shock. There are many stages to dealing with this kind of health issue and they have far reaching consequences for us, our lives and the lives of those around us. In the early days there might be the trauma and shock of just surviving and having major medical intervention, the shock and acceptance of diagnosis and prognosis, the anxiety and fear about the extent of recovery and the implication for the quality of our lives and ability to look after ourselves, the resentment and anger we might feel at having to adapt our lives and the loss of the life we used to have. These conditions will impact every area of our lives and will make enormous demands on our mental resilience and emotional capacity.
Changes in health status may also have an impact on friends, family and employers and colleagues. If you are in this position you may feel just as much fear, anxiety, sadness, stress and anger as the person who is directly affected. It might well demand alterations to your life particularly if you have to care for someone else. In these circumstances feelings of resentment, guilt and an inability to share your feelings and needs with those around you are common as you tell yourself “well it isn’t happening to me so I have no right to complain”.
Talking therapies can help anyone directly or indirectly affected by health issues however they occurred. It gives time and space to work through the thoughts and feelings in a non judgemental and entirely confidential setting. You can talk openly and without editing to spare loved ones worry or distress. This gives you the opportunity to manage and come to terms with what is or has happened so that your health issues are not added to by the knock on effect of the thoughts and feelings around your original condition and you can improve the quality of your life.