As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we are sharing some of the valuable insights from Consultant Counselling Psychologist, Angela Waind that appeared in the previous edition of Lymphoma Matters magazine.
If you are living with a lymphoma diagnosis, understandably you may find yourself focussing on the physical side of your health - symptoms, treatment or side effects. But for good health and wellbeing we can’t separate physical and mental health.
We experience this link between our physical and mental health in the natural way our brains deal with stress. To keep us safe our brains trigger a fight, flight or freeze responses, which all have physical effects. For example, before a follow-up appointment many people feel anxious or stressed, which can lead to physical sensations such as a knotted stomach, feeling sick or dizziness. It’s not only the person with lymphoma who experience this, but family, friends and carers experience this too.
Research shows that people living with a health condition are about 30% more likely to experience anxiety and depression. When we consider how much a lymphoma diagnosis impacts all aspects of life, that figure isn’t surprising.
When do you need to ask for help?
If you have never been concerned about your mental wellbeing before, it can be difficult to recognise when you are struggling or things don’t feel right. Whilst the impact of lymphoma means feeling low, anxious or depressed is normal and understandable, help is available and there are key things that indicate that it may be the time to accept help:
- If you find that your brain is so busy with worried thoughts that it is stopping you from concentrating on things like talking to your family, reading a book or focussing on a TV programme.
- If you have stopped doing things that you usually enjoy doing because you struggle to feel motivated and don’t think you would enjoy them.
- If you find you are cutting yourself off from people because you can’t face seeing them or don’t know what you would say, or if you are putting off doing things that would have given you pleasure in the past.
- If you find that you need to speak to your medical team a lot to be able to get reassurance to manage your worries, especially if the reassurance doesn’t last very long.
Starting a conversation about your mental wellbeing
While your medical team can answer questions about your physical health, they can’t identify what is going on with your emotional wellbeing and mental health. That is the part that only you can contribute to your care. This is why it is so important to speak up and let your team know when things feel difficult.
What services and support are available if you are concerned about mental health?
Clinical nurse specialists understand the kind of emotional wellbeing struggles that people might be having in relation to their lymphoma and are trained to provide support. Your GP can also direct you to community support and to talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy which is available through ‘Improving access to psychological therapies’ (IAPT). Your GP or CNS will also be able to refer you to specialist cancer psychological therapies services or clinical health psychology services which are closely linked to oncology and haematology services. These services are often based at GP surgeries or local health centres.
You can hear more from Angela Waind on the Lymphoma Action podcast.
Read the whole article, which appears in Issue 119 Spring 2021, or to sign up to receive our free magazine.
12 May 2021