A Fresh Start in the New Year with a New Mindset

There’s something really special about a fresh start to a new year. Everything feels a little more hopeful, even though all of our ‘stuff’ from last year tends to follow us into the new one.

That blank-slate feeling is so important and shouldn’t be overlooked. For me, it’s the re-lighting of a fire under my hiney that I need in order to do a little self-evaluation and get back on track with following my health goals.

Healthy living and vitamins aren’t always enough

Until recently, I had spent most of my healing energy on eating well, exercising, and researching to gain as much knowledge as I could about what was happening to my eyes. Those healing things are still at the top of my list of importance. But now I have one more focus that may just be the most important of them all...my mental health.

A few years ago, I never would have thought that a lot of my healing with macular degeneration would come from sitting down with a therapist and dealing with all of my inner demons. But, it has...and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made!

How stress affects our bodies

According to the Mayo Clinic, emotional stress and anxiety can cause headaches, upset stomach, chest pain, lack of sleep, and fatigue in the short term. In the long term, it can actually cause disease in our bodies like heart disease and diabetes.

I have spent many of my living days anxious with worry, sadness, and fear due to macular degeneration and all of the not so fun symptoms that come with failing eyes. What I’m learning is that feeling anxious is normal and common with the diagnosis of any disease. I’m also learning that with the knowledge of coping skills, a strong support system, and a plan of action in place, anxiety can be controllable.

Macular degeneration is a risk factor for anxiety

The Mayo Clinic also explains that one of the main risk factors for anxiety and anxiety-related disease is, “Stress due to an illness, or having a health condition [like macular degeneration] that can cause significant issues such as treatment and worry about the future.”

Being a part of our MacularDegeneration.net community has shown me just how many of us are worried about our futures. So, this is extremely important.

Complications of anxiety

One of the most important parts of the Mayo Clinic article on anxiety that I read was about complications that can arise due to extreme anxiety.

The article states that “Having an anxiety disorder does more than make you worry. It can also lead to or worsen other mental and physical conditions” such as:

  • Depression
  • Substance misuse
  • Digestive and bowel problems
  • Headaches and chronic pain
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulties functioning at work or school
  • Poor quality of life
  • Suicide

I don’t know about any of you, but after reading this I’m thinking it’s about time for us all to do something about the stigma surrounding seeking professional help for mental health issues like anxiety.1

What can we do about it?

Besides exercise, a healthy diet, supplementation with vitamins, and injections, there is more we can do to help keep our eyes healthy. It has much to do with our emotional health and learning how to cope with our anxieties in order to keep them at bay.

Talking about it

First, we can start talking about it in a healthy way. I absolutely love my time with my therapist and I could never count all the ways she’s helped me be a happier, stronger, healthier person. Not all of my sessions with her are easy, but they are definitely all worth it. I’m shouting this at the top of my lungs whenever I can to whoever will listen to me!

Meet your emotional needs

Here are a few ways to be healthy emotionally:

  • Know yourself and your needs well
  • Understand anxiety and what triggers anxiety-related symptoms for you
  • Spend more time doing the things you love
  • Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  • Therapy with a mental health professional

Which brings me to my next point…

Breaking the stigma of therapy

For some, there is a huge stigma around the idea of seeing a therapist. It can feel vulnerable and embarrassing. Some of us were even taught that needing professional help with issues of the brain meant there was ‘something wrong with us’ or that we were ‘crazy.’

I’m here to tell you that is as far from the truth as it can get, friends! My relationship with my amazing therapist has been such a huge blessing in my life and an even bigger part of my healing of this disease.

You see, macular degeneration was stealing my joy and causing so much worry and anxiety that I struggled to function and sleep. I’m still not any good with the sleeping thing, but I am working on it.

Where to start

If you’re anything like me at the start of my mental health wellness journey, then you may be wanting to see a therapist, but don’t know where to start.

There is a secret to being successful in therapy that not many people openly discuss. Here’s the deal...this is a relationship. It’s not supposed to feel like you visit a doctor once a week or twice a month to be ‘fixed.’ This could possibly be one of the most important relationships you seek out in life. Different than friendships and marriages, but just as important.

How to start seeing a therapist

Like any relationship, finding the right-fit person for you may take a few tries. But it is well worth it in the end. Like any relationship, you don’t just see your therapist a few times and feel all better. It takes some work, time, trust, and vulnerability...but if you can give it some work, time, trust, and vulnerability you will likely find the healing you need to keep finding your joy.

And, not only will you feel happier and more at ease, but your body will be healthier because of less anxiety. And that, my friends, means your eyes have a better chance at being healthier and maintaining vision too! Win, win if you ask me!

Tips for finding the right-fit therapist

  1. Call your medical insurance company to ask about mental health coverage. Most plans have mental health coverage, but what is covered depends on your plan.
  2. Have your insurance company can determine which therapists are in-network and would be covered by your plan.
  3. Make a list of these possible providers and do some research.

Here are a few tips to help you choose from the list

  • You can look up doctors online! Many therapists know that people are usually seeking help for specific things (divorce and family, substance abuse, or anxiety and depression, for example)
  • You can also call and speak to each therapist to get a feel for their personalities
  • Narrow your list down and visit each one a few times before making a decision on who you want to continue seeing
  • Stick with it - give it enough time to work, things cannot be 'fixed' or healed overnight

You are not alone

If you're considering working on your mental and emotional health but are scared, please know that you are not alone. Know that you deserve better than feeling worried and anxious all the time.

So many of us struggle with all the feelings that are attached to the diagnosis of macular degeneration and vision loss. I would like to be the first to tell you I'm proud of you for wanting change and for being brave enough to seek happiness. Especially during a time when things can feel anything but happy. I'm cheering you on!

You've got this,

Andrea Junge

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MacularDegeneration.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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