Mental illness is more disabling to me than physical illness

I have reached the point where mental illness is more disabling to me than physical illness. Before I became depressed I was physically ill with ME, diabetes and migraines and I was limited by fatigue and pain but I could write, I could repair computers, and I could focus to read or watch TV, as long as I planned around my illness. With regular rests and flexible timing I could engage with the world and get some things done. Now, though, depression and anxiety steal my focus for hours at a time and prevent me from completing even the simplest task. I start writing blog posts and manage one line. I start watching TV and manage 2 minutes of a half hour episode. I start games then give up. I drive to shops or friends and then can’t get out of the car. I look at my forms for help with power wheelchair costs and freeze up. The phone rings and I pull the duvet over my head.

My physical and mental illness seem to feed off each other too. If I reach a point of (even more than normal) exhaustion then I will also become overtaken by despair.¬†Depression and anxiety also make it impossible to work towards improving my physical health. I need to get a routine and start pacing my activity but mental health problems mean that I can’t even think about doing things when I need to.

I’m not sure that I have a point in this blog post other than wanting to rant a bit. I suppose if anything my point is that depression is not some minor inconvenience. It is a real, crippling illness that will destroy a life just as effectively as any physical problem.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

12 thoughts on “Mental illness is more disabling to me than physical illness”

  1. I’m sorry to hear about this, have you tried counselling? And are you taking any meds for depression/anxiety? I think you’ve done really well simply writing this post out considering what you’re going through. I know counselling on the NHS has quite a backlog so in the meantime here are some resources about managing your thoughts (which have helped me in the past).

    I’ve included quite a few links because I’m not sure what you have precisely, so apologies for all the links. Go through them in stages, even a minute can help.


    Panic Attacks:

    Social Anxiety:

    Self Esteem:

    Generalised Anxiety Disorder:


  2. {{{Hug}}} – depression is seriously awful. It messes with your reality, turning life upside down. People think it is just sadness & all you have to do is “pull yourself together”. NO! Overcoming depression is seriously hard work, specially when you have no energy to start with, one step forward & 100 back. That one step forward will eventually break it, but it cannot be underestimated as a challenge. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always an oncoming train…

  3. I can identify with so much of this, Steve. Depression stops me doing things I could do, to manage my physical condition and improve my quality of life. Physical and mental illnesses feed off each other in the most unhelpful way!! Not that the DWP understands any of this though:(

  4. I know exactly where you are coming from….when you have a physical disability it takes great effort to plan and arrange your life so that you can motivate yourself through pain, disrupted sleep, fatigue and to deal with the practical difficulties of living in a broken body. It takes great effort to force your body through the necessary physiotherapy to keep it functioning in a reasonable way. It takes great courage to get yourself outside of the house to deal with the inaccessibility and prejudice that we still encounter on a daily basis.
    Since the governments hateful rhetoric against the sick and disabled, leaving home has become dangerous. In this last year I have been both verbally and physically attacked because of my disability. I feel like I am under seige. I have become depressed.
    Now the depression eats away at my life, stopping me from doing the things I need to do to keep my body functioning. I can no longer structure my day, I cannot answer the phone, I cannot reach out for help, I need to hide away. Maybe this is a little of how Jews felt in Nazi Germany…fearful, ashamed of what they are and reduced to hiding away because it feels like that is the only way they are going to survive..whilst in the meantime seeing what is left of their lives unravel and time waste away. I feel like this government is trying to kill me and fear they may achieve it.

  5. I’m so sorry you feel so awful at the moment. Jan is right, depression messes with your reality, to the extent that you can’t recall feeling anything different. It sounds trite, but you will feel something else again – although unfortunately no one can promise you when that will be. At one point I was suicidal and was hospitalised, but after 3 yrs of trying different meds found a combination that gave me some mental space, and a counsellor who could help me work things out. Don’t let your GP fob you off with just medication, and don’t let an awful shrink put you off. Beating depression is a team effort. For now, be proud of posting such an eloquent blog post – you are more than the depression makes you feel.

  6. Sorry to hear you are so unwell both physically and mentally, but I think it is a positive thing that you’ve at least been able to post today. Sharing your mental anguish, even if to a generally unknown audience, is firstly very brave of you and secondly, by doing so you are at least doing something creative in the form of writing.

    In the Staffs area the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ service run by the NHS allows you to self refer, and the services provided are a lot more flexible, especially for generally housebound disabled people. After a first face to face session you can choose whether you would like telephone counselling or someone to visit you in your home. See if this service is one that is rolled out across the country. There should also be an evening time NHS telephone number for someone to talk to in your area when it gets too much. If you feel it can help, your GP can refer you to them and they will phone you every week to check on you.

    I have had to have CBT/counseling many times, and I’m currently having telephone anxiety counseling. I’m always very skeptical about the ability of these therapies to help me, since like yourself, my physical health and stressed circumstances will only deteriorate over time, so it seems like there is no hope. That said, these therapies have actually always helped me, and the way I look at it is like this: yes, you may have had therapy before, you know what to do so what’s the point? But, that is like saying, well I’ve broken my arm before, which needed a cast, so now that I’ve broken my arm again, what’s the point in having a cast? When your mind is just as broken as your body, it needs treatment just the same.

    I know asking for help isn’t easy, and that you probably haven’t got the wherewithal to do anything about it. I hope that you will find the strength to do so however: with such a serious and debilitating illness (I have ME/MS), we have to be able to engage in those little windows of happiness that come our way, like doing the things we love on the odd day when we have a few hours of less pain and suffering even though it’s hard for us, in terms of physical pain and exhaustion if we do.

    From personal experience I totally agree that these extreme phases of illness leave you in complete despair, and one feeds off the other in a kind of vicious downward spiral that you feel you will never escape from. Add to that the local authority cutting your care, and a continual fight to remain on any kind of income that provides a disabled person with a dignified life. Boy, we have it real hard!!

    Thanks for posting this though Steven, and if it’s all that you can do for now, if all that you can do is somehow put this despair into words, then at least you’ve achieved something.

    Wishing you well and hoping you will start to recover soon.


  7. The NHS mental health therapist I saw yesterday said exactly the same thing – mental illness drags any physical symptoms down along with it and makes it near impossible to get anything done. Depression is a hell of an illness for anyone to cope with, let alone trying to manage it alongside even more demanding things as well.

    Thanks for writing this – I know my physical symptoms are mild compared to a lot of people but reading other people’s experiences helps reassure me that I’m not going completely mad. Keep ranting away, it’s surprisingly helpful even shouting these things at the internet sometimes.

  8. Thanks for posting this, from the earlier comments it’s clear this cycle of physical impeding emotional affecting mental health is a real issue for several of us, (and I guess there are many, many more disable people who share this),

    I agree entirely, the depression is often more unmanageable than all of the physical problems together; and I find the attitude of medical professionals upon hearing this described particularly galling, I’m sick to death of them immediately leaning towards the ‘its in your head’ dismissive manner as if we’re just slightly blue!

    I just wanted to say you’re not alone.

    Keep up the fight


  9. A good post and yes it has a point. I have a physical disability caused by an industrial accident and went from very fit to disabled in 10 seconds. I fight through the chronic nerve pain everyday but it isn’t just the pain that stops me doing things. I have had days just like yours, were the depression takes over, you can’t fight it, you just have to ride the wave and hope tomorrow is a better day. You can’t manage it like we do our disabilities and pain, we just have to live with it, each day is a roll of the dice. Some days it’s a 7 and others it’s Snake eye’s.

  10. I’ve thought for a long time that severe mental illness (including severe depression and/or anxiety) is as or more disabling than severe physical illness. Having experienced both, I’d take the physical illness over mental illness any day. (I’d prefer not to have either but apparently I don’t get that option.) I was the one who mistook the first symptoms of ME for depression because they were similar- it was only when the depression lifted I realised something else was up, but then I was able to function much better even though I still wasn’t well.

    Having both must be completely horrendous. I hope you can find something that helps you. Mine was a stable life (income, housing and relationships were all settled), the right medication for me (which was a combination of trazodone and quetiapine- SSRIs didn’t help, but that’s me), a supportive doctor who listened to what I said and didn’t try and shove me in boxes, and a massive dose of luck. My ME was only moderate when I managed to recover from depression, so I don’t really have much experience of how to get things to help while also severely physically ill.

    As hard as it is, try not to feel guilty about not doing stuff if you can (I understand it can take a long time to learn how to do that). If you are able to distract yourself, do so (I’ve found simpler games, children’s books and stuff good because brain was too broken to understand harder stuff) but if you can’t, try not to worry. If you want to rant, do so- it helped me a lot.

    *Squishes* if you ever want to rant/scream/cry/be distracted, I will help as well as I can. I love you and want you to feel better.

  11. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid major physical illness but depression and it’s buddies have had me by the goulies for as long as I can remember. I wish I could impart some useful nuggets of wisdom for escaping it but usually the most I’ve ever done was adopt some destructive vices, which are great at first, but not so great when the buzz goes.
    The mind can become a pretty hopeless place when you have nothing to occupy it with. Being in constant contact with people may help but the instinct is to avoid this when in a dark spot, for me at least.
    When it gets particularily bad I’ve often gone a few days without food or water in the hope that the physical pain will give me some relief, so that’s probably something to be avoided! I even quit a heavy 10 year smoking habit last month in the hope the withdrawl effects would keep me occupied.
    It’s a bit of a long shot and might seem ridiculous, but you could try playing some meditation videos in the background. The dialogue in tends to be staggeringly inane but I find the ambiance can sometimes distract me for a while.

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