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Managing Your Emotions While Living with Kidney Disease

Being a teenager can be tough with or without kidney disease.  But having kidney disease can make it even harder. The good news? Learning to cope with your feelings can help.  It can make the extra challenge of living with kidney disease easier.

Why are my emotions all over the place?

There can be many different reasons why you may feel the way you feel. Understanding the connection between your kidney disease and feelings of depression, anxiety and other emotions is the first step toward coping. Here's what you should know:

  • A chronic illness can affect your mental health. When you have a chronic illness like kidney disease, you have a lot more to think about, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, anger, worry, and stress. Living with the seriousness of kidney disease, day in and day out, can lead to a more negative view of life. You may not understand everything that is happening with your body, your treatment, and how you feel from one day to the next. All of this can make you feel confused and leave you feeling down.
  • The physical challenges of kidney disease are hard. Maybe some of the medications you take have physical side effects, like steroids, which can cause you to bloat and not look or feel like yourself. You may feel more self-conscious of how you look and how you feel. Some days you may be too tired to go to school, and other days you may not want to see anyone because you do not like the way you look. These feelings can be hard for you to understand and maybe harder to explain to others.
  • Kidney disease can affect your personal life. In addition to physical problems, you might find yourself making lifestyle changes — not because you want to, but because you feel you have no choice. Living with kidney disease might mean having to cancel plans with friends when symptoms flare up. As a result, you may end up spending more time alone.

How do I manage all these emotions?

  • Talk: Find someone you trust and talk to them. Maybe that person is a friend, your social worker, school counselor, or maybe even your parents. Don't be afraid to tell others what you are feeling and to ask for help and support when needed.
  • Share: Part of being a teenager is thinking that you are the only one who has problems. Everyone you know has something that they are dealing with. Your something is kidney disease. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with one or two close friends. If you share your concerns with each other, you will all feel better.
  • Don't be so hard on yourself: Sometimes bad days or bad things happen. These things can create stress. Your emotions might already be scattered because of hormones and physical changes. Add the stress of living with kidney disease and you have a lot to manage. Be prepared for this by finding ways to relax. Maybe keep a journal, call a friend up, exercise, read, or listen to music.
  • Find a routine: As a teen, keeping up with high school, daily activities, and medical visits can be a lot. Create a routine just for you for those times when things feel too difficult. Some ideas are watching your favorite TV show, playing your favorite game, taking a walk, or reading a good magazine or book.
  • Take charge: Living with kidney disease doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals and dreams. You may just need to change how you accomplish them. You can move toward goals one small step at a time. Meeting with your guidance counselor or teacher can help you reach your goals at school. 

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