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Lucy Turns Pages: Guest Post: How do chronic illnesses co-exist: a look at ehlers-danlos syndrome and bipolar disorder by Kayla Knight

Guest Post: How do chronic illnesses co-exist: a look at ehlers-danlos syndrome and bipolar disorder by Kayla Knight

I deal with two chronic conditions known as ehlers-danlos syndrome hypermobility type and bipolar disorder type one. Chronic conditions are diagnosed by the severity and longevity of symptoms. A chronic condition must affect your life everyday or most days for more than six months. Dealing with two chronic conditions makes it difficult to function everyday and can have devastating consequences if left untreated.

Chronic pain is a broad term. Everyone experiences pain differently. Some deal with pain from an injury, such as breaking your arm. Others are born with conditions, such as arthritis, that cause widespread pain without an easy fix. My experience with chronic pain is uncommon. I dealt with daily pain and thought it was normal. As it turns out, daily pain without some kind of injury, is abnormal. The reason I deal with chronic pain is due to a condition called ehlers-danlos syndrome hypermobility type that causes joint instability, widespread chronic pain, and subluxation (partial dislocation of joints).

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one in my early twenties. Think of bipolar disorder as the poles of the earth. There is mania (the north) and there is depression (the south). Mania is an excess feeling of the euphoria, excitement, as well as poor decision making, impulsiveness and the idea that you’re truly invincible. Depression on the other hand is the lowest and saddest you’ve ever felt. You can’t imagine ever being happy or normal or okay again. Bipolar disorder type one is distinct from the other types because one full blown manic episode must be experienced for it to be diagnosed.

Bipolar disorder and chronic pain seem like two very different conditions that have nothing in common. However, these conditions tend to feed off of one another. I’ll explain what I mean by putting creating two comparative categories; a manic episode with chronic pain, and a depressive episode with chronic pain.

Interestingly enough, a manic episode can cause chronic pain to worsen for a time. My experience with mania usually includes excessive exercising, cleaning more than I’m capable of, eating things that worsen pain, and neglecting tasks that will help pain symptoms. These tasks include taking medication on time or at all, going through a physiotherapy routine, taking breaks, and attending doctor’s appointments. In short, I over do things and ignore pain relieving tasks because it’s difficult to care about anything than high amounts of energy I’m experiencing.

When left untreated, mania can be dangerous. Mania can make you feel like you’re on top of the world and completely invincible. If that means jumping off a bridge, why not? You can fly and no one can convince you otherwise. That’s why I don’t care about taking care of my pain. I don’t feel like I’m part of reality anymore. Why take care of something that isn’t real?

Chronic pain can put you into a depressive episode. The thoughts you experience around chronic pain make it easy to feel hopeless and like there’s no way to end your suffering. Chronic pain by definition is ongoing and endless. Often, you don’t get any long-lasting relief. So, it’s understandable if you wonder why this is happening to you, if you deserve this, whether you’ll be in pain for the rest of your life, and that it isn’t fair.

If you don’t take care of these thoughts, it can lead to more dangerous ones. It’s easy to get lost in thoughts of hopelessness and wanting to end your life. Your life sucks anyway. That’s why I deal with these depressing thoughts right away. The way you think dictates your life and the way you behave.

I haven’t seen any articles or papers on the coexistence of pain related chronic illnesses and mental related chronic illnesses. I want to give hope to others like me. Functioning with multiple chronic illnesses is tough, but it is possible. I also hope to bring awareness to this issue. It’s easy to feel like you’re drowning when you don’t have support. Support if you can. This is as easy as sending someone suffering a message to see how they’re doing. It may seem small, but it means the world.


Kayla is a young, disabled, aspiring author living in Canada. She has a unique perspective on life and aims to share her writing with a wider audience. As one of five children, she learned to be quiet. Now, she has no trouble being loud and proud.

TikTok: @chronicallykayla95

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