With chronic illness, it’s crucial to pay attention to mental health

How I managed to turn the negatives into positives

Brandi Lewis avatar

by Brandi Lewis |

Share this article:

Share article via email
An illustration of a woman riding a roller coaster winding through a forest, as the banner image for

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’ve learned about my mental health while on this journey with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and aplastic anemia. I was prompted to ponder this topic after reading several articles about World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, which seeks to spread awareness about the stigma associated with mental health.

My diagnoses led me down a path of learning about how to nurture my mind. I needed to understand how to mentally navigate the ups and downs that come with a chronic illness diagnosis.

One important lesson I learned from battling chronic illnesses was how to get in sync with my mind. At the time of my diagnosis, my mind understandably was filled with negative thoughts. I feared the worst. That led to thoughts of not being good enough. I felt alone and isolated, and I didn’t think I could accomplish great things in this world.

At times, it was normal for me to remain in a negative state of mind for long periods. When that happened, my mom would come into my room and tell me, “This is merely a moment of your life.” What she was saying was that this too shall pass.

Recommended Reading
A person wearing a baseball cap speaks using a megaphone.

Using Soliris for PNH lowers blood clot, mortality risk: Study

Flooding the zone

Repeatedly hearing this reaffirming comment helped me start to think positively. Over time, I slowly replaced the bad thoughts with good ones. When a bad thought entered my mind, I would say aloud, “I do not accept this negative thought in my life.” Then I would change that thought from a negative one to a positive one.

Over time, my mind became flooded with positive thoughts. I was grateful for the things in my life. I started to notice the amazing things I had previously taken for granted. When I was in the most difficult period of my illness, I would wake up every morning and say, “Thank you for this day and for being alive!” That simple morning mantra helped me start my day positively, no matter what negative things lay ahead.

As I look back on my 15-year battle with two rare disorders, I am proud of myself for persevering, even when times were tough. That includes those days when my doctor would give me bad news at almost every appointment.

I finally learned to accept myself and acknowledge that I am strong. Being willing to face a life-or-death situation head-on was a courageous act. Once I accepted that, I felt a boost in my mood and my mental health improved. I knew I could conquer anything I faced.

As I reflect on what I’ve learned, I’m proud to be able to share my message with the world. My story is one of many. And I am stronger because of my journey.

Note: PNH News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of PNH News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.