Depression and MS

Sometimes I wonder how fictional characters would respond if they had a chronic illness like MS. What would Mary Poppins do? Would she keep the chin up and sing a cheerful song- even though the magic umbrella is not what it used to be since the last relapse? Would she get on with her chores even though she is so tired, she could fall asleep on top of a “Chim Chim Cher-ee”?

What would Nidge from Love/Hate do? Would he have the MRI machine blown to smithereens for ratting on him? Would he spot a niche in the market and set up a nice little earner dealing dodgy M.S. drugs?

What would the granny from Downton do? No doubt she would ring the bell for a double brandy- followed by a witty quip on how this damned illness wasn’t going to beat a Dowager.  

Back to real life and my own situation. I am the star of my own show. The writers have thrown me a curve ball. I have M.S. There is no cure. I am affected every day. I get depressed about this sometimes.  I would rather write a blog about haemorrhoids than my battles with depression but I think it’s important to share so that others can see that they are not alone.

“Previously- on the Joan Jordan show!!! Joan knows there is something very wrong with her health. She experiences anxiety and worries constantly. She has trouble sleeping and can’t relax. Then, Joan gets diagnosed with M.S- which explains her symptoms but leaves her feeling very low. She has no interest in life. She stops picking up the phone and people stop calling her. She doesn’t want to do anything but sleep- not even eat. Days drift into each other. She is no fun to be around……”

When I was expecting my first baby, I read every childbirth book I could get my hands on. My birthing plan went into intricate detail, describing exactly what was going to happen and when. Nothing could have prepared me for what actually did happen when the contractions started. The theory all went out the hospital window and I had no choice but to go with the flow. It’s much like how I felt when depression first came knocking on my door. I knew lots about it but nothing about how it actually felt to have it.

Looking back, the anxiety came when I didn’t know what was wrong with me and the depression came when I did. I am probably a text book case- although in my situation, the acceptance phase took a while to come! I’m glad that acceptance of my M.S finally did come because I was using all my energy fighting something I am not in control of. I needed my brain to stop going over and over and over the facts.

I missed out a lot on life while I was depressed. William and Kate got married and I didn’t even care!! I got grievously wounded by friends who stopped sending me birthday cards. It seemed like everybody else on Facebook was having a much better time than I was. I felt alone- even though I was in company.

Getting out of the hole didn’t happen overnight for me. In my case, talking to the right people was what worked. Things fell into place after that. Diet and exercise played a big part but they came after. I find my local M.S. support group wonderful. When you have friends who are in the same boat- people who really get where you are coming from, things don’t seem so impossible. Be warned though- just because somebody happens to have the same illness as you, doesn’t mean you will be kindred spirits!

Like my friends Mary, Nidge and the Dowager- different people react differently to life events. I’m not sure if I am prone to depression or if I just got depressed because a series of particularly rubbish things happened to me all at once. Around here, it would be said that I had a “shite year” in 2011. I hope that I am better prepared to read the warning signs should depression come knocking at my door again. I also hope that I will be able to help others by speaking out about how dreadful it feels and what helped me out of the pit of despair.

Having M.S is depressing. It just is. Stephen Fry said that “It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do”. I am so thankful to the people in my life that stood by me during my dark days. Like Elsa from Frozen, I also try to “Let it Goooooooooo” and forgive the people who didn’t. 

I never expected to experience depression but now that I have, I’m going to do all I can to read the signs and head it off at the pass if it comes knocking at my door again. Having come through it’s horrors, I want to stand up and say that I’m NOT ashamed and that there IS a way past it.

Have you experienced depression associated with your MS?

Do you have any tips on how to cope with the bad days?