Tonianne has lived with physical and mental health conditions since childhood. These are their frank, empathetic words about coping and learning over time — a valuable message all the more appropriate during this Mental Health Awareness Month.
This story mentions self-harm and other mental health struggles, and may be triggering to some of our readers. If you or someone you know would like to speak with a trained counselor, visit CrisisTextLine.org or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
I have a severe mental health disorder and two conditions that affect my body. I have been diagnosed with three medical conditions: asthma, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, and schizoaffective disorder.
I first developed symptoms of asthma as a small child, so I can’t say I remember much about what seeking medical help for that was like. All I knew was that dogs made me sneeze and have trouble breathing, which made me terribly sad.
My struggles with my mind started around age 11.
I was self-mutilating and [was] promptly sent to mental health practitioners after this was discovered. I was diagnosed with major depression then, but that diagnosis would change several times. Ultimately, after symptoms worsened over the years, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at age 28.
For a long time, I saw myself as “damaged goods.” … I generally no longer see myself as dysfunctional or defined by illness, but on my bad days, those old thoughts do creep in. And when they do, it’s a nightmare.
Also at age 28, I suddenly developed eye pain and blurred vision in my right eye one April morning. Upon also experiencing fatigue, I went to an emergency room, and they diagnosed me with optic neuritis. The doctor who examined me told me I must see a neurologist at once, because I most likely had MS. She was correct, and I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis about two weeks later.
For a long time, I saw myself as “damaged goods” and highly dysfunctional. How could I not be, if both my mind and body aren’t healthy? After all, whatever goes on in the mind affects the body, and vice versa. So I thought I was doomed and wouldn’t amount to much of anything for years.
I generally no longer see myself as dysfunctional or defined by illness, but on my bad days, those old thoughts do creep in. And when they do, it’s a nightmare.
The trickiest thing about managing multiple health conditions is figuring out how to stay positive and believe in myself. If I am having a particularly bad day, managing symptoms is the top priority; oftentimes it’s the only thing I can do. Also, self-care is always a must, even on good days.
My advice would be…
…to remember that you are a lot stronger than you think.
You are living your life burdened, but you know what? You are still living; thriving; experiencing.
Even if the only triumphant thing you can do on a bad day is get out of bed, that is a victory, and it shows just how strong you are. Never doubt yourself completely or write yourself off because of your diagnoses!
Diagnosed with asthma, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, schizoaffective disorder
Are you managing multiple conditions? If so, we invite you to share your story.