[This post is part of my Medical Conditions Series.]
Most people who suffer from chronic pain also struggle with depression. I am no exception. Intense, continuous, chronic pain is objectively horrible, and knowing that I don’t have any effective way to treat it frequently plunges me into despair.
My depression is tightly linked to my pain. When my pain is (relatively) light, my depression (mostly) disappears. My testicular pain will remain relatively stable for months at a time, and during that time my depression will lift a bit as I settle into a routine to manage my pain. But then my pain will start getting worse. My pain management techniques will be inadequate and my routines will get disrupted as I try more and more things to less and less effect. Eventually, the pain gets bad enough that I can’t even attempt most of my pain management techniques and I go into freefall. The pain increases in a vicious cycle and I can’t see the end of it and serious depression engulfs me. Which, of course, makes the pain even worse. Which then makes the depression worse. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But eventually, the pain levels stabilize, I regain my footing and establish a new routine to manage the pain, and the depression recedes. But it never really goes away. Probably because the pain never goes away. [And the pain never improves, it only ratchets downward. The only times of improvement were when I’ve had surgeries, but those improvements were never permanent, and I’m reluctant to try more surgery.]
When the pain levels are stable, I’m inclined to think of my milder depression as a reasonable and rational response to absurd amounts of chronic pain and the disability which accompanies it. I feel like for depression to get into serious mental illness territory, it has to be more irrational than that. But when the pain levels intensify, when I’m getting worse, when the ground falls away from under my feet and I don’t know how bad it is going to get, that’s when my depression becomes full-fledged.