The Importance of Mental Health for Dry Eye Sufferers
Content note: The article describes suicide and depression. If you or a loved one are struggling, consider reading our mental health resources page, or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988.
The emotional toll of dry eye
When I originally developed chronic dry eye, I joined a Facebook group in order to ask questions and learn more about the condition. One of the things that broke my heart was the number of people who were experiencing depression and even suicidal thoughts because of their dry eye condition. But honestly, I wasn’t surprised.
I’ve always considered myself a mentally and emotionally strong person. I’ve gone through periods of sadness and depression in my life, but I’ve always managed to pull through those times and find peace and joy, even in difficulty and disappointment. However, I have never experienced something as physically debilitating as chronic dry eye. It simply strips you of your quality of life. And in turn, it strips you of your joy and love for life. It can leave you in a state of survival – not just day to day, but hour to hour.
Early on, when my condition was at its worst, I remember feeling hopeless. I was applying drops every few minutes, and my local doctor had offered me little help. I remember having a scary thought: I was 41, and I could not spend the rest of my life like this.
For the first time, I could understand how people experiencing such physical pain might consider ending their lives. I could see how they might say that living isn’t worth it if this is what life is going to be like. That thought jolted me and drove both my quest for healing and a lot of internal struggle to find peace even in the midst of this “hell on earth.”
I remember reading an article that someone posted in my Dry Eye Syndrome Support Group about a young Detroit meteorologist and mother of two who took her own life just two months after having LASIK surgery and suffering from dry eye pain. In the article her husband described her as a tough person, having never gone through any type of depression before. The story was heart-wrenching. However, when I read stories like this, it really validates my own experience: that this is hard and that other people are feeling the same way.
What has helped me
But stories like this also show me how important good mental health is for dry eye sufferers. Three factors have been key for me in maintaining a balanced head space. This has been my experience.
First and foremost, my relationship with God has been my sustaining source of strength. Chronic dry eye has brought me to my knees in desperate prayer like never before. I have cried out to God to heal me continuously, in my home, in my car, on long walks. That has been my constant plea. However, my prayer has been two-fold: Not only has it been for healing, but it has also been for God’s strength and Spirit to be with me even in the midst of this terrible disease.
I spend time with Him in prayer and reading my Bible, and I get such encouragement from the ways He speaks to me through his word. I realize that this life on earth is not going to be without suffering. Ultimately, my hope is not in this life on earth. My hope is in the saving blood of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life: a life without sin or any pain. But I must persevere while I am here; however, I’m not asked to do it alone. He is with me. And if He is with me, I can face any day, not without difficulty, but with supernatural power.
Second, my relationships have helped me tremendously. I believe that God works through people to accomplish his purposes, and the people around me have been his hands and feet in offering support to me during this time. My family, my friends, and my coworkers have continually checked in on me and allowed me space to vent and work through this condition emotionally. Even people that I don’t know personally, but who I have found online and that suffer with dry eye too, have been a tremendous encouragement.
Hope for healing
Finally, hope for healing has helped me stay positive. There is always hope. I am so much better now than when my dry eye journey first began. I am not fully healed, but I have made a lot of progress through various treatments. I am not giving up, and I expect continued improvement.
My advice to anyone who is really struggling right now would be to keep going. Sometimes we can find ourselves in such a dark place that we cannot see a way out, but there is always hope. Time can be our friend, and we can find ourselves in a much better place a few days later if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Quiz: Having dry eye disease over time can lead to what condition?