Sickle Cell & Depression


Question: How do you stay positive when you have sickle cell and its causing other significant health problems?

It can be quite easy to slip into the doldrums and depression, especially when it feels like we are constantly beset with one physical ailment or another. I can’t claim to be just a ‘happy person‘ or that “God’s grace is sufficient….” Realistically…when the doctor comes to your hospital bed with the ‘bad news’ face…nothing in that moment helps as you feel your heart dropping to the bottom of your toes.

I will truthfully acknowledge that as a sickle cell warrior, I go through the same dark moods and gray emotions and everyone else. You aren’t immune from feeling sad, angry or depressed…it’s how you cope with it, that is what sets one apart from others. Depending on how dark my emotional bout is, I usually do a variety of things.

1. Relax: I do whatever it takes to make me relax. Sometimes it’s a hot bath, self mani/pedi or a good book. Sometimes I just lie in the dark, listening to my breath and good music. Sometimes I go shopping…or immerse myself in video games. You have to find something to do that just makes you relaxed and mellow.

2. Rejuvenate: It can be hard to be emotionally strong when it seems like everything is falling down. For me, I realized last year that it’s okay, I don’t have to be strong all the time. It’s okay to let loose and cry, and to wallow in my emotions. Usually at the end of the session, I feel much better, having those emotions drained out of me. Holding on to negative energy and emotions leaves me tight and frustrated. Rejuvenation is a process of letting go of all the emotions…the anxiety, the fear, the tears, whatever it is.

3. Conversation: Have you heard the saying, a problem shared is a problem half solved? When I get so upset, and none of those steps above help, I usually vent to my best friend. She doesn’t have sickle cell, but I just unload all my emotions on her. Talking about it…even though she can’t physically do anything to help lifts a huge load off my shoulders. No man is an island, and we can’t go through this alone. So find your ‘person’, that you can talk to about this, and just go ahead and vent. Blow off the steam and let it out.

4. Realization:
I realize that God gave me sickle cell for a reason. And my life is one of testimony. Surviving and loving my life with sickle cell is just another avenue of that testimony. I feel that I have sickle cell, not because it’s genetic, but because of a purpose, because it’s part of my destiny and there is a reason for the agony and pain.

That is usually my process. I try to relax, and if that fails, I let those emotions out. I cycle through all of the steps until I’m able to once again reach my center. Yoga and exercise do help…I find that when I”m feeling better about my body, and feeling physically fit and strong, I tend to get less depressed. I’m also a big fan of music…I have a playlist on my iPod and computer for those dreary days. Find the music that motivates you and imbues you with strength. Sing out loud. Dance.

Revel in your body and in your existence. I’m alive! That is the most beautiful thing of all. I could have been dead since my childhood or any other age between then and now. But I’m alive. I’m living…and life is wonderful!


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