We all have feelings that overwhelm us. Believe it or not, emotions serve a purpose. You shouldn’t ignore them. In avoiding feeling bad, you ignore a message your body is giving you. HS disease and emotions can be difficult to manage sometimes, but they can be managed!
For some people with HS, overwhelming emotions are part of the illness. One in four people worldwide suffers from mental illness. That’s a lot of feelings. In many societies, emotion, especially in men, is seen as weakness. But mental health is something everyone has. Moreover, people with chronic illness are more at risk of mental ill-health. So we must look after our minds.
You have probably heard someone say that they need to process. Or maybe you have heard of “getting closure.” But what does any of that mean? In this article, we will look at the function of emotions and what it means to process them.
HS Disease and Emotions
Emotions are feelings you have in response to a situation. You are happy when you succeed at something and sad when you lose. Emotions are how your body lets you know when something is right or wrong. That is an oversimplification but stick with me.
We tend to think of the body and mind as separate. However, in this explanation, the body and mind are the same. The mind is something your brain (as part of your body) does. As an illustration, consider how emotions have physical sensations.
We consider emotions, positive or negative. Negative feelings mean something in your environment is off. For some, those emotions are prolonged. And if you can’t process intense emotions, it can make you ill.
Emotional processing is a way of coping with negative emotions. Your first instinct when you feel down is to avoid feeling negative. You might try to cheer yourself up. But a lot of the time you feel bad for a reason.
When you process feelings, you acknowledge why you feel rather than pushing it away. You identify which of your needs you need to meet. And you come to a decision about how to address it.
For example, you have a disagreement with your significant other. You both got angry and are not speaking. So, you feel bad because your relationship is in conflict. You might think that a boundary has been crossed or that you weren’t listened to. Alternatively, you may feel guilty of your own behaviour. You may decide that the best thing to do is talk about it when both of you are no longer angry.
Assuming the resolution was positive, you feel better. You’re not angry or sad because you expressed your emotions. But that is a straightforward example.
Most people are quite resilient, and after a distressing event, they cope. Stressful events might be a crash, assault or the loss of a loved one. It can also include diagnosis or treatment of an illness.
For others, the after-effect can stick with them. Some feel fearful or experience intrusive thoughts long after the event. PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness. And can result from a traumatic experience. However, not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. People with PTSD can’t process their feelings because they’re emotions overwhelm them.
If this sounds like you, consider seeing your doctor. There is no shame in seeing a mental health professional. And your GP is the best person to advise you.
If you have experienced a stressful event recently, consider asking a friend for help. Of all the things that help us in hard times, social support is by far the most effective.
With a Little Help from your Friends
Research shows that social support plays a huge role in coping and resilience. A 2019 study of 545 firefighters found that perceived social support reduced the likelihood of developing PTSD. They only had to think they would have support for them to cope on their own.
This makes sense because humans are above all social beings. Think about it. A person separated from the herd is vulnerable, right? It makes sense that other people make us feel safe. So, when something distressing happens, knowing there are people around us helps.
I think about emotional processing in this simple way. Telling yourself the story of what happened. And without feeling overwhelmed. At least that has been my experience. It’s not as clean not feeling anything. But I don’t think anybody feels for no reason.
So, if you believe that you over-reacted, consider 3 things.
- What made you feel that way?
- Why did you react like that?
- What would make it better?
Once you understand your feelings, you can process the emotions. On TV, they call it closure. If at any point that task is too much to handle on your own, seek help. Talk to a friend or family member. Or visit your doctor to help you manage HS disease, and emotions that you experience.
About the Author
Shannon Sweeney is a psychology and sociology student from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing, and Hidradenitis Suppurativa.