We MS’ers know the feeling… the sudden wave of anxiety, crazy bouts of insomnia, bone-crushing fatigue, and loss of energy that lasts for days. Difficulty concentrating or the inability to make a decision, the feeling of rage, the crushing feeling of our world closing in on us, or my personal favorite the feeling of hopelessness. That feeling of no matter what – this moment will, in fact, live on forever. Your life will continue to be nothing more than waking up, taking pills, watching TV if your eyes will allow it, and going back to sleep. It will never get better is your thought.
These thoughts and feelings are common in the MS Community. It is said that the most common symptom of MS is depression, in its various forms.
And it’s not surprising, Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases and the worst part is you never know when an attack is going to reveal itself. If your MonSter is anything like most, it comes to play at the most inopportune times.
Let me give you a recent example:
MS: Oh you’re planning to go out of the Country tomorrow? Cool! But first, let’s give you problems speaking, and walking.
Me: *heavy eye-roll* as I choke down steroids for what feels like the 100th time. Hoping I will regain my ability to speak and walk before my 17-hour flight.
Now, this example isn’t so horrible, but live this life long enough and scenarios like these can become downright miserable if you let it.
So what can we do? What can we do if we live this funk? If there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel and no matter how much you love Grey’s Anatomy, if you see Meredith Grey ugly cry one more time you might just lose it, for various reasons?
I thought a lot about this and then decided to do some research.
These are the top 5* strategies (besides medication) I found for helping us beat depression:
1. Exercise: Even though it’s the last thing you want to do or feel like you can do its important. When you exercise your body releases a chemical called endorphins the endorphins make you feel better. No one is telling you, you have to run a marathon, even walking around your house once a day or doing little stretches as your watching a show or in bed can help you feel a little better.
2: Make a stress Management program – Try meditation, yoga or guided-imagery meditation.
3: Talk about your feelings – This might be a “duh” type of suggestion, but let’s be honest
a lot of us most of us don’t do it. We’re too concerned about not wanting to bother our loved ones, thinking they/no one will understand, or maybe just not having the words. The thing is if we keep these thoughts/feelings bottled up inside its only a matter of time until we explode. If you don’t have someone to talk to reach out to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MSAA or join a support group of people who are going through the same thing you are. These three places will be skilled in helping you and will provide you with more resources to help you through this.
4: Commit to one activity each week: A friend of mine suggested I do this a few months ago. He suggested that I chose one thing to concentrate on a month, and every day tell myself “I will, I can, I must, XXX” The hope is the simple act of being accountable for doing one thing will make it easier for you to do more things, making the depression haze lighter, and giving you a feeling of purpose.
5: Create a gratitude list: By shifting your focus from the bad to the good, you will create a moment of pleasure. It can be a something as small as I took a shower today, or I left the house for 10 min and walked around the front porch. Both of these things are major accomplishments and should be celebrated.
Whatever you decide to do to try to kick depression is great, and should be celebrated!
Your life is too precious to feel this way
P.S. Another thing is to make it known to your health care professional that you are feeling this way. You might not even know you’re depressed. You might just feel down, or have minor feelings of agitation. Whatever the case may be it doesn’t hurt to bring it up. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor about these things or feel like he/she won’t be responsive, I urge you to find a new doctor if you can, it is so important for you to have a good relationship with you Dr. However, If finding a new doctor isn’t an option please reach out to the NMSS or MSAA for help. If you’re having thoughts of depression please reach out to the National Crisis Hotline
National MS Society: MS Navigator: 1.800.344.4867
National Crisis Hotline: 1.800.273.825
SAMHSA National Hotline: 1.877.726.4727
For more ways to help cope with depression, click here