A self-portrait drawing by podcast guest Colby, who discusses somatic symptom disorder
Drawing by podcast guest Colby.

Colby has 11 chronic illness and mental health diagnoses. These include chronic pain (currently diagnosed as fibromyalgia), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), asthma, IBS, eczema, PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD and somatic symptom disorder. That last diagnosis might be the least well-known of Colby’s illnesses. According to psychiatry.org, “somatic symptom disorder is diagnosed when a person has a significant focus on physical symptoms, such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath, to a level that results in major distress and/or problems functioning.” For Colby, that means that thinking about their physical symptoms can make that symptom worse.

Colby has amassed a toolbox they use to manage somatic symptom disorder and their other diagnoses. They say, “It’s very much…training your brain to think the way you want it to. It’s still very overwhelming, just because I already have all these symptoms, I have all these disorders, I have all these medications to take care of, and then I have to make sure that doctors are talking to other doctors that are talking to my psychiatrist that are talking to my counselor.” To keep up with this complicated situation, Colby keeps a chronic illness notebook. This helps not only to keep things straight in future doctors visits, but also to get the information out of their brain when it is put on paper to focus on other things.

In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Colby discusses their multitude of chronic illnesses and how these diagnoses interact with somatic symptom disorder. They share the history of how this situation developed, including thinking it was normal to be in extreme pain every day throughout childhood. Colby feels there may be an underlying condition like a connective tissue disease that has yet to be discovered, but works hard to quell thoughts of health uncertainty. Colby also discusses the passions and past-times that help them power through, like writing fan fiction and playing video games.

Connect with Colby online at https://linktr.ee/mergoatink

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