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The Constant Emotional Changes That Come With a Chronic Illness

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

Coping mechanisms

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Jacksonlowerkeys
    1 year ago

    Enjoyed your blog. My one method to combat either type of depression is I found humor in our disease. https://www.facebook.com/groups/154611285254970/

    When I was first diagnosed with MS in 1971 it was easy to learn everything available about MS. I reached for the encyclopedia and absorbed all two paragraphs. Now we are overwhelmed with information to a fault. Looking back I’m not too sure which is better. Either way MS marches on.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I was basically BORN with an intense sense of sarcasm and being diagnosed with MS just poured fuel on that fire, IDK how I would have made it as far as I did without my sense of humor and ability to laugh at myself and my situation. And personally, I feel like it is always better to know, I would rather absorb everything and decide what is worth remembering than having just 2 PARAGRAPHS written by someone telling me what to believe you know?

  • MoniD
    2 years ago

    Wow, this article is what I needed in my life. LOL. For the past month, I have felt like my emotions were everywhere, and I was just about to call a therapist. 🙂 I have lost many friendships since my diagnosis in 2012 because my coping mechanisms and managing life have changed. I find that I need more down time (no phone conversations or texts and just stare at the tv while in bed) more than I did pre diagnosis. I find that my brain needs a break from the constant influx of information, especially after a long day at work. This is not well received in our tech society which relies on instant gratification and communication.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I feel the same but IRONICALLY I am involved in a lot of work that brings about CONSTANT email alerts, social media alerts, texts, call, EVERYTHING and sometimes (often actually) I just can’t handle it so I have adopted a timed system that turns off all notifications on all my devices at a certain time each day so that I can better separate “work time” from “down time”.

  • SusanP
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this, you’ve really hit the nail on the head. What is not well described, but I’m sure every person diagnosed with MS experiences, is how the disease changes one’s perception of him- or herself. I find that I am constantly grieving the loss of the person I used to be and this becomes even more prominent when I reconnect with someone whom I haven’t seen since before the diagnosis and so they aren’t aware of my new limitations.

    Becoming more mindful in life, and practicing mindful meditation has really helped me manage these emotions. I give the present moment 100% rather than thinking about what I’ve lost or what I need to do for my optimal well-being in the future. You’re right that things aren’t fair, but I’m tired of being angry/frustrated/depressed.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I really can’t believe I never thought to write about that. Self-image. Identity. Things I have had issues with for a very long time since my diagnosis and things that have caused me to seek therapy. I think I will write about that soon, thank you!

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