When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis twenty years ago my biggest fear was that I might end up in a wheelchair one day. I never realized that one of my biggest challenges would be depression. The diagnosis itself can be depressing, however most patients do bounce back with the help of family, friends and the medical community.
The issue with MS is that roughly 60% of patients suffer from depression in their lifetime and half of them can be chronic. This is more than any other neurological disease. It’s not just the disease itself that can cause the depression but also certain medications that treat the disease. Damned if you do damned if you don’t, right?
For me I was always a positive, happy person. I was devastated by my diagnosis as first and thought that I might end up disabled or even dead. But after reading the material my neurologist gave me, I felt better about it. I knew that I could live with the disease and live my life.
Ten years after my diagnosis I started to have dark thoughts and tried to numb my emotional pain by drinking. It was my husband who saw that I was changing and that I needed help. He made me realize that I needed to listen and I knew that this was not how I wanted to live my life. I saw a psychiatrist who put me on an antidepressant that helped along with counseling.
My depression worsened when I began taking Lyrica for my nerve pain. One of the side effects is that Lyrica can cause suicidal thoughts. My neurologist recommended that I see a psychiatrist associated with the clinic I was attending.
I made an appointment but by the time I saw him my depression was the worst it had ever been. In the end, he recommended that I double my dosage of the Cymbalta I’d been taking for the past ten years, and it worked. I have my good days and bad days but I’m able to manage without going down a hole.
That was until a friend of mine committed suicide recently. He had been diagnosed with MS two years ago, but refused any help or medication for it. He had been suffering from depression itself since he was teenager and he also lost his father around the time he was diagnosed and this contributed to his emotions. I tried to help him and offer advice, which he refused. In the end, he didn’t want to be helped. This is heartbreaking for his family and friends.
People must want help. Tomorrow is another day and there is help available. Family, friends and medical professionals along with MS societies are there to help us. Try something you enjoy when you feel the dark cloud descend.
Please ask for help if you need it. Call the Suicide Prevention hotline or talk to your doctor if you are depressed.
You may also enjoy reading other of Vivan’s writing: JK Rowling fund trial for Secondary Progressive MS and Bioten found to help Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
Vivian was diagnosed with MS in March 1999, although symptoms began in 1995. I previously worked as a financial adviser but had to retired due to the worsening of my symptoms. On the positive side, more free time allows me to work on my writing. I am 43 years old, married with two beautiful girls, aged 14 and 11 and reside in Australia.