Originally appeared over at Flurt Mag!
I talked to my mom, a Lupus patient, about Selena Gomez’s decision to take a break from touring so that she could recover from the mental health symptoms that come with the disease – anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
Selena Gomez recently cancelled the remainder of her tour to focus on her health following her Lupus diagnosis. The 24-year-old’s Lupus diagnosis was announced last year after rumors circulated about the singer being in rehab, when she was actually undergoing chemotherapy.
My mother was a similar age to Selena when she received her Lupus diagnosis just after my brother was born. She’s always taken time off from life to focus on her health. The most important thing she does in terms of self care is to have a nap or rest each day. Despite her Lupus, she’s a business owner – and being an entrepreneur allows her time to keep her own schedule and control her Lupus by allowing space for relaxation every day.
“It sucks, because when you’re sick you don’t look sick,” my mother said when I asked her about living with Lupus. “People don’t believe that you’re sick. It can be so many different things – hundreds of things can go wrong, and the symptoms aren’t black and white or the same for everyone. I know a lot of people have a hard time being diagnosed. It can take years and years of being sick before they’re diagnosed.”
Here are some facts about Lupus:
- Lupus is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks itself. Essentially, the immune system works too well.
- The disease is most common in women, especially women in their childbearing years.
- The disease is difficult to diagnose; doctors use eleven separate criteria to diagnose the disease. This process lead to the catch phrase on the TV show, House: “It’s never lupus.”
- Lupus can lead to more health problems for women later in life, including Heart Disease, Kidney Disease and Osteoporosis. This is particularly concerning because heart disease is difficult to detect in women and isn’t discussed frequently enough. Osteoporosis is also a disease frequently affecting women.
- The cause of Lupus is unknown, but genetics are considered a factor.
- People with Lupus have ups and downs. The disease is a series of flares and remissions. Many people will go weeks or even years with few symptoms, only to have a flare, which can debilitate them for months at a time.
- Treatment includes steroids, chemotherapy, antimalarial drugs, immunosuppressive agents and more.
- Lupus patients need to receive all of their vaccinations, but when undergoing therapies that suppress the immune system, they may not be as effective. This is why herd immunity is vital to people with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
- Lupus can cause difficulties in pregnancy and increases chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, diabetes, high blood pressure, and birth complications.
With Selena Gomez’s hiatus from touring, many people are wondering what Lupus has to do with mental health issues. Most people with a Lupus diagnosis experience some kind of psychological struggle in their lifetime. When I asked my mother why this might be, she said that it could be “due to the fact that you’ve been diagnosed with a lifelong, incurable disease, and you don’t know how to handle that.”
Dealing with anxiety, panic attacks and depression is common in Lupus. Other than dealing with the disease itself, this can be because medications can have side effects, such as weight gain that can contribute to poor body image, and the physical symptom of a “butterfly rash” on the face. The disease can also limit the physical activities of a patient; it can be difficult to work, move, travel and socialize due to chronic pain – which can contribute to mental health problems. The disease and pain associated with Lupus can be very isolating, causing loneliness and, in turn, worsening mental illness.
The chronic nature of Lupus leaves a lot of room for uncertainty, which can be stressful at best and debilitating at worst. Since the disease can attack any part of your body, there are neurological problems associated with the disease, such as ‘brain fog’ that can also contribute to mental health problems.
Let’s all give Selena Gomez some privacy and time to heal. Lupus isn’t like the flu – it’s something that the singer will have to deal with for her entire life. She will have extremely positive and prolific times, as well as some subdued, painful ones. Just because we cannot see a cast on her arm or scars on her body doesn’t mean she isn’t suffering. When it comes to invisible illness, we just have to trust the people who are living with them and provide any support we can. Many of her fans are donating their ticket refunds to lupusresearch.org to contribute to the search for a cure.
With Selena taking time off from touring to focus on her health, this shows the rest of society that even the most successful and ambitious people need time to recover, and that self-care is intrinsic to overall well-being for everyone. Hopefully because of her actions, mental illnesses like anxiety and depression will become less stigmatized and fans will see that taking care of your mental health is just as important as treating a physical disease.
Jennifer Vance is a business owner from Black Diamond, Alberta. Her business, Bohemia: An Eclectic Shopping Adventure (hyperlink: http://www.blackdiamondbohemia.com) provides the foothills with affordable lifestyle products carefully curated and imported from around the world, as well as sourced locally. She is the creator of the Bohemian Apothecary line of all-natural and handmade bath and beauty products. Being an entrepreneur allows her time to keep her own schedule, helping to control her Lupus by allowing space for relaxation every day.