I have suffered with mental health issues since around the age of 13, and physical health issues since the age of about 16.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18, and a few months after that I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Type 3, which is the hyper-mobility type.
Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is an incurable invisible chronic illness which contains numerous inherited conditions due to faulty collagen.
Collagen is important for almost every part of the body, from your tendons and ligaments, to your skin and your intestines. This means that for me, dislocations, sprains and pulled or tender muscles are common, along with gastrointestinal issues, such as digestive problems, chronic fatigue, and Dysautonomia, which is your body’s inability to do it’s automatic functions, like regulating heartbeat and temperature for example.
Getting diagnosed with both Ehlers Danlos syndrome and depression was difficult, especially at the age of 18.
Both of these things limited my social life, pushed people closest to me away, and made me very unhappy with the world around me. However, around a year and a half ago I met somebody that truly made me happy, we were like best friends and we really did have the best relationship.
He cared for me despite my illness and my pain, and always understood that sometimes we just couldn’t be a normal couple. We continued that way for around a year before I started to struggle with my bowel and digestion, I was having numerous episodes of heavily bleeding, intense stomach cramping and long nights of little or no sleep due to pain, whether it be digestion related or joint related. He had supported me through my new symptoms, waiting for 12 hours at A&E to be seen by a doctor, consistently being by my side for every appointment and so on.
The day after my birthday, I woke up to a message on my phone from a girl who had added me on social media the previous night, she had started to message me, sending pictures and conversations that she had been having with my partner over that last week or so.
She spoke about how he had tried it on with her and how they were planning to meet.
Laying in his bed at 11am next to him, I started to ask who the person was, and he just broke down apologising.
I left his house and stormed off with him still shouting apologies and crying at his doorstep.
When I got home that night we discussed some things, and I had found out that this had been going on for almost 8 months of our relationship. When I asked him why he would ever do such a thing to someone he spoke frequently about marrying, he replied with, “Your illness drove me to it, we never had sex and I needed to have sex”.
I immediately knew that this was him trying to diminish responsibility, considering I had only been really ill for the last 3 weeks or so. But that is when I realised, for the rest of my life, I will always have people who will try to shift their blame and guilt onto my illness, and it’s unfortunate that people will use and twist the stories or the happenings in a chronic illness persons life to suit themselves.
Luckily, I have a great support network and didn’t let this knock my confidence for long, but for others, it could have been the straw that broke the camels back, sending an already vulnerable person spiralling into complete despair and depression.
All I can say to anyone who is in my position and not dealing with it is that sometimes people have to make others feel bad so that they can feel better, but it’s really not you that is the issue, it’s them.
Words by Lauren Elise James