I’ve been blogging for MS & Me right from the beginning. Some pieces are easy- like “Managing Christmas With MS”, or “Travelling with MS”. Others are more challenging and while I was offered anonymity by the editorial team, I feel that it is important that I disclose that I, as a person living with MS experience mental as well as physical issues. Issues like depression. Please note that I don’t use the word “suffer”. The only thing I suffer from is other people who consider me only as an object worthy of their sympathy.
So, I have had a few encounters with the Irish Mental Health System, once involving hospitalisation. I have always said that, in hindsight, I wish I had been offered appropriate mental health services at the time of my diagnosis. This is a critical time when good practices can be formed in relation to mental health and your changed circumstances. When it was too late and I was in dire need of assistance, I found the existing system very difficult to negotiate at a time when I was at my most vulnerable. I still to this day do not understand how it works and who does what! If anybody out there does, please let me know? I certainly found the mental health system much more paternalistic than neurology.
When you get a physical symptom as a result of your MS, other people can understand it and are, at large, sympathetic. “My right eye has gone all blurry!” is a tangible thing everyone can understand. When you tell close ones about more invisible symptoms, reactions vary: “Sure, I get tired too”, “Think of the people who are worse off than you”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
When it comes to mental health, things go completely off the charts.
- Why should I be encouraged to suppress the fact that I occasionally get sad and frustrated that I must live with MS?
- Why should I not be allowed to take the time to get my head around the fact that there is no cure?
- Why should I have to suck it up and not express that I get depressed because it makes others uncomfortable?
I have been listening for years to people from other countries who find their Neuropsychologist or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) beneficial. I can’t access these services in Ireland (not for the want of trying). Why not?
If all you take from this blog is to mock me because I admit that I have mental health issues as a result of my MS, then at least we have a starting position. Would you mock me if I must start using a wheelchair or self-catharise? Please take mental health seriously in your holistic consideration of people living with MS.
Be kind to yourself and others.