The Constant Emotional Changes That Come With a Chronic Illness
The subjective side to MS
When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2010 at the age of 20, I did nothing but browse the internet trying to learn everything I could about this chronic disease. I remember reading so much about the many different symptoms it could cause, the various treatments that were available to me, the course of the disease, and so much more of what you could consider “textbook information.” Objective facts. Technical information. Statistics. That is how my brain has always ticked, so I like that kind of stuff, and as much as this new reality sucked, my brain was “enjoying” the flood of new information. There was so much to learn and so much more that I wanted to discover, but what I didn’t think to read about (at the time) was the subjective side to MS; the emotional side. I understood how this disease could physically affect my body but what I wasn’t prepared for was how much of a toll the constant emotional changes that come with a chronic illness (like MS) would take on me.
How much MS can do to a person
Now I have seen many studies that show direct links from MS to mood swings, depression, and many other emotional changes, and I have absolutely no doubt that these studies are completely true, but first I want you to think about just how much MS can do to a person. Introducing so many crazy symptoms that can cause you to experience the world around you in a different way than you understood it to function all of your life. The utter unpredictability of when you will actually be able to function as a human being and when you will have to sit on the sideline. The financial burden of the disease (insurance, medication, doctor’s appointments, air conditioning/heating, not being able to work a job, accessibility equipment, home modifications, etc.). The realization that you can no longer do something that you have been able to do all of your life or that has always been a favorite hobby/pastime of yours. The immense impact it can have on your social life…
Things are constantly changing and it can become extremely stressful, even to an otherwise well-balanced individual. In time, people tend to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, and when they do this instead of learning how to properly deal with their problems? They, more often than not, start to develop all sorts of emotional issues! Especially when any one of their given coping mechanisms can be randomly rendered useless (due to yet another unexpected change in life brought about by MS) just as they were finally growing comfortable with it and the new way of life they tried so hard to come to terms with.
It's not a fair fight
Try to imagine all of that. The constant changes and how stressful it would be to always, without notice, have to learn how to adapt to them. Now add to that the predisposition to the various emotional issues that MS can cause. In the past I have talked about the difference between situational depression (being depressed because of a bad situation) and “biological” depression (being depressed because of a chemical imbalance in the brain). Both suck, but dealing with both at the same time is just not fair; you’re not just in a formidable fight but you are outnumbered! So apply this idea to your overall emotional state; not only are your emotions constantly jumping around because of all the unexpected changes that living with a chronic disease like MS can cause, but they can also be all over the place because of chemical changes in the brain that really seem to occur at random with no apparent reason at all. Or oh yeah, medication! So many of the medications used to treat symptoms of MS can cause all sorts of mood/emotional disturbances! So when it comes to mental health and emotional well-being? The cards can really be stacked against you and trying to function like this can be unbelievably exhausting… especially when you are already living with chronic fatigue.
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?