Mental Healthcare Is Important When Chronically Ill or Caregiving

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by Christie Patient |

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Oct. 10 was World Mental Health Day. I am a bit late to the party, but with a twice-monthly publishing schedule, this is my first opportunity to share a column inspired by Mental Health Day.

In previous columns, I have discussed my mental health struggles and how I use therapy to cope with my mom’s IPF diagnosis and double-lung transplant. I am not ashamed of these things. I am actually quite proud that I had the courage to seek help when I needed it and that I have put in the work to fortify my mental health.

While everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist, I especially encourage it for people who are living with or caring for someone who has an unpredictable, progressive disease. Even if you have a good support system and the most positive attitude on earth, you might find yourself feeling isolated and emotionally exhausted. Both patients and caregivers need to learn how to cope with the stress and grief that comes with a diagnosis such as pulmonary fibrosis.

I’m aware that the word “therapy” makes some people want to head for the hills. I know people who have said they would rather get divorced than go to couples counseling. Talking to a stranger about your problems can be super weird and uncomfy. It might even feel shameful or degrading to your character. You may think that seeking help means admitting there is a problem — and that is forbidden territory if you’re someone who is used to “handling things.” As a recovering tough girl, I get it. Being vulnerable is scary as heck, especially when you are already hurting. I can hear the excuses already, but hear me out.

Therapy doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. It doesn’t have to feel like a white flag going up on a sinking ship. No one even has to know. With the pandemic routing a lot of our healthcare services to telemedicine, saying you have a phone appointment is not going to set off any alarm bells if you’d rather keep therapy private from loved ones.

“OK, fine, I’ll try it. But how do I even start?” I hear you say.

Good question! Calling your primary care doctor for a recommendation is a good place to start. This ensures you end up with a licensed therapist, and you can find out if insurance will cover it.

Referrals can take forever, so thankfully that isn’t your only choice. Web therapy is a thing now, and while I haven’t personally tried a web therapy service, my research leads me to believe that it is an excellent option.

Just make sure you are using a reputable service that will protect your privacy and that the therapists you talk to are licensed in your state. Most states have an online directory of licensed professionals.

Web therapy seems to be super accessible, with fewer hoops to jump through to find a provider that fits your needs. Plus, the sheer number of therapists involved means you’re more likely to get an appropriate match sooner. You won’t have to go on a blind date with every provider in the one psychology office in your small town, for example. Hundreds of qualified professionals are at your fingertips.

Online therapy services like these are available to everyone for a fee. Some services take insurance, but even those that don’t are pretty affordable. Check with your insurance provider beforehand to see if they will reimburse you. Otherwise, expect to pay between $20-$100 per week.

The best part is that you never have to go into an office for a visit. This is good news for people with limited mobility or low energy due to IPF. And of course, the less time we spend in public during the pandemic, the better. With telepsychology, you can access therapy from the comfort of your own home or wherever life takes you.

I wish I had thought to try one of these services when I moved to San Francisco for six months to care for my mom. My therapist was states away, and telehealth was not available to me then, so I did without.

Since the pandemic started, my therapist has moved to telemedicine only. Though I didn’t arrive at this arrangement through a web service, I can vouch for the effectiveness of talking to a therapist over the phone. In fact, I prefer it to in-person visits. Monthly therapy in the park has been a lovely ritual to help me process all the challenges of this infamous year.

I hope you are taking care of your mental health. And if you aren’t? I hope this has given you a push to do so.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


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