Living with a chronic or life-threatening illness or injury takes a cumulative toll on a person’s emotional and mental health, whether it is lifelong asthma, diabetes, a cancer diagnosis, a disability, or organ failure. Similarly, a sudden injury can leave in its wake life-altering changes and daily struggles that permanently challenges a person’s sense of well-being. Emotional adjustment to life altering changes such as these can cause coping problems due to the chronic stress and uncertainty presented by facing the unknown or having to live with a chronic illness.
Dr. Jenny Holland PsyD was once diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer and is now a cancer survivor. She has lived with chronic pain her whole life due to Cerebral Palsy. These experiences give Dr. Holland a unique perspective and a deep understanding of what it is like to live with chronic illness and a life-threatening diagnosis. “As a cancer survivor, I enjoy working with others with cancer to improve quality-of-life while going through treatment, by addressing symptoms that may arise practically and imaginatively,”
Facing a serious diagnosis
When someone undergoes a life-altering health challenge, the immediate reaction can include tears, emotional outbursts, reaching out to loved ones for comfort, or perhaps denial as the newly diagnosed patient chooses to pretend that nothing has changed. Some people may feel emotionally numbed or feel ‘stuck’ as they are unable to process that life has suddenly changed beyond recognition. Some people take the opposite route and leap into action to tackle the health problem head on.
No matter what the reaction, it is important to remember there are no rules for how to respond, nor is there an expectation to what one might feel. Every person’s experience is unique so it is important to allow the process to unfold, and allow yourself to adjust to the situation. A serious health complication is disruptive by nature, and all aspects of what we may consider to be a ‘normal life’ may become challenged. Feelings associated with chronic or life-threatening illness such as cancer, or a major health event such as a stroke, heart attack, long-haul COVID symptoms, or a debilitating injury present challenges, and every individual’s reaction is unique.
You are not alone
There are steps that can be taken to support emotional health during times of crisis and therapies that are designed to help patients cope, and eventually thrive. These therapies can help to ease the stress and anxiety that often accompany serious illness. Working with a trained therapist can help you discover ways to navigate a challenging life situation.
“Living with uncertainty, pain, and compromised physical ability takes a cumulative toll. My practice is process and solution-focused with outcomes aimed at symptom reduction and increased joy,” explains Dr. Holland. “I use a combination of therapeutic approaches and techniques to help patients successfully make the changes they most want to see in themselves. I am here to help.”
Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline. She is available for Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support as well as in-person appointment for fully vaccinated clients. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.
Distance therapy helps to address the stay-at-home trend during flu outbreak
Dr. Holland has offered phone and video conferencing therapy options for patients for some time, and with the rising concerns surrounding the coronavirus, these types of therapy sessions are more relevant than ever.
“Distance therapy using the phone or an online video conferencing system such as FaceTime has long been a good option for my clients who have access issues due to lack of transportation, health or time constraints. And, some clients simply find it more appealing to hold a session outside of an office environment.” Dr. Holland explains. “Now, with the widespread concern over the coronavirus, online therapy is a great way to stay connected with my clients, and a terrific option for new clients that don’t want to put off getting the help they need.” Therapy sessions are one-on-one and individually tailored to the client’s needs.
What is required for online conferencing? New clients will need to go through a screening process that begins with a free 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Holland. Once the screening process is complete, clients simply need to have access to a reliable computer with a webcam, a smartphone or a tablet equipped with camera and mic. After the appointment is confirmed, Dr. Holland will send a link to the video conference that is used to access the therapist’s private online office room.
As with any new therapy system, it’s a good idea to research and understand the benefits and limits of this form of technology before signing up for a session. It is important to have access to a computer or mobile device with a webcam, a good microphone as well as up-to-date antivirus software and a personal firewall. Clients will also need access to a private space where they will not be overheard. It's also good to create a space that is free from distractions that could interrupt the session such as phone calls, emails, other people or pets in the area.
Please bear in mind that this program is not meant to replace crisis services or hospitalization. New clients who are a good fit for this program are typically eager to get help, they are stable, and they are open to receiving information and guidance for symptom relief.
Please start by booking a free 15-minute phone consultation with Dr. Holland.
Study participants had levels of depression symptoms serious enough to suggest a need for treatment
When they said their wedding vows, many of them promised to stand by one another in sickness and in health. But a new study suggests that as married couples age and develop chronic conditions, the daily demands of coping with their own health demands and those of their spouse may take a mental toll.
Depression symptoms increased over time among married men and women who themselves had two or more chronic conditions that need different types of self-care -- such as a special diet and medications for heart disease or diabetes along with pain-reducing therapy for arthritis. When husbands and wives both had chronic health conditions, and needed different kinds of self-care from their partners, husbands fared worse. Their depression symptoms were significantly higher, but this effect was not found for wives.
The new findings, made by a team from the University of Michigan using data from a long-term study of more than 1,110 older opposite-sex married couples from 2006 to 2014, are published in Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. While less than 10% of the women and less than 7% of the men in the study had levels of depression symptoms serious enough to suggest a need for treatment, lower-level depression is important for older people, clinicians, caregivers and adult children to understand, says Courtney Polenick, Ph.D., who led the study.
In both husbands and wives, the rise of depressive symptoms didn't begin until a few years after the first assessment of their health and well-being. "Our results suggest that there's a window where, if one or both of you are managing complex conditions that don't have similar self-management goals, it may be possible to intervene and prevent the development or worsening of depression," says Polenick, who is part of the U-M Department of Psychiatry and Institute for Social Research. "This might be the time for couples, and those who care for them, to emphasize broadly beneficial lifestyle behaviors that help to maintain both mental and physical health."
For instance, a woman coping with both high blood pressure and arthritis needs to make changes to her exercise routine, but her husband without such conditions could commit to making those changes along with her. Or a wife with diabetes who does most of the cooking and has a husband with prostate cancer could adopt a healthier menu for both of them. Polenick and her colleagues from U-M's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study, which repeatedly interviews and surveys thousands of American adults in their 50s and beyond over time.
They focused on conditions that have similar treatment goals focused on reducing cardiovascular risk -- diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stoke -- and those with treatment goals and needs that are different from each of the other conditions- cancer, arthritis and lung disease.
When one person in the couple had at least one condition with different treatment goals and needs, they're considered to have "discordant" conditions. When one member of a couple had at least one condition that has different treatment goals and needs from the other partner, the couple is considered to have discordant conditions. "Research has focused on how individuals with multiple conditions, also called multimorbidity, manage their chronic health needs," says Polenick. "But most people in later life are partnered, with similar health-related habits, and we need to understand how changing health affects the couple dynamic." The fact that both wives and husbands experienced significant increases in depressive symptoms as the years passed, when they were coping with discordant conditions in themselves, is by itself important to understand, Polenick notes. But the fact that wives whose husbands' health needs differed from their own didn't experience an even greater rise in depression is a bit surprising, she adds.
Meanwhile, husbands whose conditions had self-care needs that were different from their wives' conditions did experience an additional rise in depression symptoms. Among individuals who are baby boomers or older, wives may be more used to taking the lead in caring for the health and emotional well-being of both themselves and their husbands, she says. But when husbands have wives who are coping with different health demands than their own, the husbands may experience less of this support than usual, worsening their stress and mental health.
Polenick and her colleagues continue to explore these intra-couple dynamics, and their consequences for mental and physical health. They also hope to expand the range of chronic health conditions they examine, and to look at shorter time frames in conditions that can be managed with lifestyle changes. But in the meantime, she notes that middle-aged and older couples may want to do more now to understand the factors that they can control as they age, and those they cannot, and talk about how they feel as a result.
"This is a reminder to step back and look at what your partner is coping with, to learn about their health conditions, to be conscious of it on a daily basis, and for grown children and clinicians to do the same," she says. "Having that awareness, and helping one another manage health problems while watching for signs of depression, may help both members of a couple over time."
Story Source: Content provided by Science Daily and Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. "In sickness and in health: Study looks at how married couples face chronic conditions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191203104756.htm.
Caregivers often report feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm. While caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, it also comes with distinct elements of stress. When dealing with a long-term challenge it's extremely important to also provide for your own emotional and physical well-being. When the challenges associated with care giving are not taken into consideration the caregiver's physical health, relationships and mental health can deteriorate over time — eventually leading to burnout and exhaustion. And when it reaches that point, both the caregiver and the person being cared for suffer. Caring for yourself is equally if not more important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication on time.
Focused Therapy for Caregivers
If you are having trouble with accepting or adjusting to life's challenges, Dr. Holland can help you find healthy ways of coping. The simple act of expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic. Dr. Holland will tailor treatment to meet your specific needs. Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.