Did you know that the majority of physical and mental illnesses never appear on their own?
I always felt like I was being a hypochondriac when I presented to my GP with a collage of symptoms. They always tell you to only go to the GP with one issue, but when it’s so difficult to get an appointment, I often found myself going with a few. It would be anything from frequent and unsettling heart palpitations, to crippling stomach problems. Each time I would be bundled up and sent on my way without even so much as a review of my medication or diagnoses. It was only when I started listening to my body and reading into my diagnoses more that I realised that this bundle of symptoms were all related in some way to the eating disorder, the depression, or the newly discovered anxiety. Not to mention the stress which we all know comes with its own host of issues.
But what is it like to live multiple diagnoses at once? How can it be managed and why should we always listen to our instinct when it comes to our own mental and physical health?
Managing multiple diagnoses.
The Beanie Bard
I prefer to think of myself as medically interesting rather than medically complex. Although when I have to answer any questions, whether verbally or on a form, regarding my medical history I die a little inside. With a current diagnosis ‘tally’ of fourteen (ish) I often have to ask for an additional piece of paper. OK, two additional pieces if they want dates and medication as well. Which, let’s face it, is more than a little depressing.
Nowadays, depending on the situation I tend to omit whatever is unnecessary and/or, lump whatever I can together. Other’s I assume to be a ‘need to know’ basis. But, even then it can become more of muddied water than you might think. For example, adding PTSD and Bipolar is probably unnecessary if I’m visiting the G.P for a urine infection. That is unless I need an examination, which is one of my PTSD triggers. On the other hand, the PTSD may be of more interest to a mental health professional, who is probably unconcerned by the fact I have Asthma. Unless the appointment is medication related, in which case it’s probably more relevant.
“You see my point?“
The other problem with my mob of diagnoses is the overlapping of various symptoms. I’m diagnosed with fibromyalgia and M.E (Myocardial Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Most often I can differentiate between which of them has flared up. It usually depends on whether the overriding symptom is a fuck ton of pain radiating through my body, or if I’m simply unable to hold my head up.
Realistically the overlap between Fibro and ME isn’t that important. The overlaps between them are significant, but, other than dosing up on largely ineffective pain killers and rest, neither of them has any medical advice other than ‘mind how you go now eh’ (more commonly known as pacing yourself). But this all becomes more of an issue when you throw mental health and other medical conditions into the mix.
“Fatigue has become worse Mrs. Jackson and you have difficulty swallowing? Oh probably ‘just’ your M.E. Move along now.” Said one GP.
“New shooting pains down your right arm you say? Probably your fibro. Oh, it’s worse than it’s ever been before? Fibro does stuff like that. Off you pop.” Said another.
“And my personal favourite: “Chest pain? That’s anxiety.” “
Frustratingly, they’ll often be completely correct. Which, of course, doesn’t make life any easier for me, and does often mean the professionals have limited resources to help. Now I mostly self-manage my symptoms and assume something within the mob has caused them. However, the fact that one day I may overlook something is worrying.
Another issue with overlapping symptoms is knowing the best method of self-treatment or self-care. For example, if I’m feeling agitated and an obsessive need to move both sides of my body in frequent succession, I need to ask myself is this OCD, anxiety, or autistic overload? The two former issues would exabit a need for me to reduce said behaviors, while the latter requires me to only regulate. Before deciding on the way forward, I have to tap into my instinct and trust my gut, which can be difficult.
“Medication has an interesting role to play in managing multiple diagnoses.”
Ever read the inserts that come along with your packet of medications? If so, have you ever wondered how you’re still alive, even with the vast possibility of horrible side effects? Each of which will have you questioning yourself many, many, many times. For example, if you suddenly find that you can poop through the eye of a needle is it IBS, medication, or should you place a plague sign on the front of your door? WARNING: Norovirus?
Likewise with palpitations, dizziness, nausea and even joint pain, all of which are common side effects of everyday anti-depressants. How does one differentiate from a side effect, a flare up or a new symptom?
So what can you do when you don’t know what the heck to do?
There are various things you can do, most of which is trust your body. Although this sounds difficult, then chances are you’ll recognize any strikingly different sensations and symptoms. Manage your existing symptoms as best you can by using adequate self-care techniques suitable to you. If that means going to bed for a while, ask yourself what could it be? If it’s depression, set an alarm to try and keep a routine. Even if it’s just wake you so that you don’t greatly impact your sleeping pattern, something which can be depremental to our health.
If you find that it’s something physical, then I suggest allowing yourself the time you need to heal and recharge. By pushing our physical body beyond its measure, we’re only succeeding in causing more harm and discomfort in the long run.
But what if you can’t place the symptom? What if it’s something entirely new or a particularly bad flare of something familiar? Then it’s best to approach your G.P, not only for advice but also management. While some G.Ps will be dismissive, others won’t, and in both scenarios, you are well within your rights to ask for a second opinion.
Managing multiple diagnoses is much like an office system. If you’ve six different in-trays sat on your desk, and everyone is dropping paper into random ones, then it becomes impossible to focus on one area. if you try, you’re probably going to end up sitting under a desk, rocking gently and dealing with none of it. Start with the most pressing and work your way down.
Good luck and good health.
About the author.
“The Beanie Bard is the place to go should you want to ask any questions directly about this or any of my other blogs, you can find my email address on the contact section at the bottom of the site. It’s a nice place, please pop by. I do a good line in sarcasm and self-deprecation.”
I know what it is like to live with multiple diagnoses. Especially, getting the correct one.
Oh can I relate to this post!! Thanks!
Chest pain means anxiety? Boy, that’s tough hehe anyway, I just know that after I went to my shrink and took the prescribed medicine, many of my other symptoms also went away.
It sounds really tough. Thanks for sharing your experience. At least if someone has the same problem, they’ll know they’re not alone
One of my friends has many health issues. One time she was told that she could not have two of the conditions at once. That doctor was wrong. It can be a real challenge to manage multiple conditions, and sadly many doctors don’t make the time to look at a person closely.
Thank you for always being so open and honest. It must be difficult to manage at times but there are so many people out there that are suffering even more because they don’t have the courage yet to seek help. You are an advocate for those people.
Wow, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has multiple diagnoses. Really interesting and thought-provoking post, thanks for sharing x
I can’t imainge having to deal with multiple health issues at once. I have asthma – JUST asthma – and it’s hard enough.
This article was a good reminder that sometimes we have more than one diagnosis at a time that we must deal with. We cannot always handle them one at a time.
I know how it feels! My mom has multiple diagnoses. Gosh, it’s so hard to manage ???? Great post!
Managing multiple diagnoses is something I can relate to as I’m juggling two main illnesses everyday! This is a brilliantly written post x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
This is a really interesting post, managing multiple diagnosis must be horrible. I always find that I make it worse on myself by googling any symptoms I have ( I have a blood condition) and convince myself I have anything Google shows. Support groups, especially now I imagine must be so helpful for those who need them x
It must be really hard for anyone handling multiple diagnosis. I have someone in my family who suffers fibromyalgia and I now that itself flares up many other conditions. It’s good that you’ve found an outlet to talk about it. Sending good vibes your way!
It must be very difficult to live with the multiple diagnosis, but hang in there. Support groups can help because you relate to others that are experiencing the same
It is hard to deal with trying to get the right diagnosis, and also to manage the stress of it all. It is helpful to share this with others going through the same struggles.
Thank you for putting your perspective on paper. I can only imagine how difficult it may be to live with multiple diagnosis. Wishing for healing and health
I could imagine how hard this would be. Managing something like this would be difficult. I’m really glad you shared this with us though. You’ve got some great info here too.
I sympathize with you on the difficulty of figuring out what symptom goes to what condition. My mother’s Parkinson’s went undiagnosed for years because she was in a bad car accident at 17, and so many symptoms seemed like they were just her ortho problems. I myself almost died from a kidney infection because I ignored the pain, since I was so used to my abdomen hurting from endo. Nowadays I keep a binder for each of us with our full medical history, and I give any new doctors a copy of it for their records so that I don’t have to fill out the forms anymore.
Managing multiple diagnoses is kind of hard. But thank you for sharing this with us. I know that you can get through everything!
When I started reading this it was like I wrote it myself. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!
I can’t imagine trying to deal with so much, You are strong my dear!
Yes, I can see how managing a situation with multiple diagnoses can make things interesting for a G.P. Well done in dealing with it and remembering all the dates and medications.
I know it’s hard but I am proud that you were able to manage it because that 14 diagnosis is not really a joke. I am wishing you for your fast healing, take care.
Oh my. I’m so sorry about all your medical issues and I can’t imagine trying to deal with multiple ones. Please take care.
Yes, we need to trust our body. This is where we need to begin from.
I’ve never been in that situation and hopefully not. But thanks for the advice.
Wow I can relate to so much of this. Thank you.
It really sounds like a tough situation. I’m glad that many people are aware of the anxiety issues now.
Multiple diagnoses are becoming more and more frequent. It may be difficult at the beginning to come to terms with such news, but if we get the right support, it should be a little bit easier for us. 🙂
I could relate on the palpitations and chest pain issues because of anxiety. Gosh I really hate when it happens.
My oldest daughter diagnoses herself a lot because she’s very anxious about everything. I’ll share this post with her, I think it will help her a lot. Thanks for posting!
This post is really informative, thanks for sharing this information.
I know what you mean, getting an appointment isn’t always easy and when you do there is more wrong with you. I think I had chest pain due to anxiety although somehow the doctors didn’t figure it out.
For me it was the depression that led to my eating disorder. Once I was able to work through the depression, I was able to face the food issues.
It is a very delicate and profoundly interesting topic for those who, alas, have to face many diagnoses and problems.
I have a really bad habit of googling my symptoms which make me feel worse! We’re lucky to have a good family doctor who actually listens and takes us seriously.
It is very difficult to have a few problems all at once but that is the doctor’s job to sort out these issues and put you at ease. I hope you find out that it is not too serious
Gosh I can’t imagine how difficult it is to have multiple diagnosis and having any symptom potentially overlap and being unsure of where it stemmed from. But I guess you get to know your body. I’m so grateful for not having multiple diagnosis. Great post thank you for sharing x
I can imagine this would be tough to hear at first. But I have friends who have multiple diagnoses, and they manage it well.
I can’t imagine how it must be to have multiple diagnoses and don’t know why symptom belongs to what. It can get confusing and overwhelming. Your advice on listening to your body is very good, something it might be just anxiety or tiredness.