Coping with Mental Health and Macular Degeneration
After being diagnosed with Stargardt's disease completely out of the blue in June 2017, age 31, I wanted to share some helpful tips with others about looking after your mental health, whilst dealing with progressive vision loss.
Mental health and vision loss
Progressive vision loss often leaves you on an emotional roller coaster as we are forever having to adapt to vision changes. These are just some of the things I try and do regularly, to boost my mood and keep me focused.
Take it day by day
I try not to think too far ahead and take each day as it comes and try to appreciate and acknowledge what I can see on that day. This hasn’t been easy, but my next point explains how I do it.
I practice mindfulness daily. Headspace is a good app to use and I bought ‘The Little Book of Mindfulness’ from Amazon which gives you small daily activities, which is brilliant. Mindfulness keeps you focused on the present moment whilst allowing you to calmly accept and acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. I used this to enable me to control panic attacks before they escalated and it is a very useful tool, but does take time to master.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try and take 5 minutes out to just go and sit somewhere quietly, do some deep breathing and try to relax, this is where mindfulness also comes in!
Last year I started a blog. I found that writing down my thoughts and feelings, it really helped me to accept what was happening to me and released some of the upset and anger. Not everyone has to blog if they don’t want to though, I started off just writing things down on paper and even threw a lot of what I had written away, but just writing it down and getting everything out on paper or in the open, really helped me to let go of it from my mind and I found it very therapeutic.
Its good to talk
Sometimes writing it down isn’t always enough and we feel we need to speak to someone about how we are feeling. I always go to someone I trust when I am feeling anxious or worried. This helps me to talk through my feelings and gain some clarification on why I feel how I do at that moment in time.
Small weekly goals
I make sure I have at least one nice thing pre-planned at the start of every week that I can look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive and if you don’t feel like it, it doesn’t even have to involve other people. Something simple like getting your favourite coffee and reading or listening to an audiobook or planning a nice walk helps me.
Exercise and cutting out caffeine have helped my mental health to no end. I always make sure I go for at least a half-hour walk daily and very rarely have caffeine anymore.
Find a local support group and a support network online. Just knowing you are not alone and there are others who completely understand what you are going through can be very reassuring and helpful. I even started up my own support group when first diagnosed on Facebook.
I hope these few tips help others as they have helped me.
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