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Severe Depression: Getting Help for the Hopeless

Severe Depression: Getting Help for the Hopeless

When I was offered to join this team to blog about living with MS, I was ecstatic. I was so excited, I told everyone in my life and it felt like I finally had something to look forward to. That was almost 3 months ago, and this is only my first blog post. So, what happened?

Depression. Depression happened as it often does to people with chronic illnesses, but this time was different than other times. This is and has been the deepest depression I’ve ever been in. I had wanted to start my entries on a bright note, telling people about my life with MS, and Ulcerative Colitis, and be able to empower them. Instead I have waited and waited for a time when I felt upbeat enough to even sit and write out an entry.

I have had bouts with depression on and off since about 2009. I had one very serious time in which I was to the point where it was just too hard to live anymore. I was tired emotionally, mentally, physically and I didn’t want to live this life anymore. Because at that time my life was nothing but doctors, surgeries, recovery, and repeat again. It was exhausting. Obviously, I got help. I found a new therapist and started an antidepressant and things got better. And I stopped taking my meds because I felt better, which as we all know, you’re not supposed to do. But I was ok. I was ok for almost 2 years and then, I wasn’t ok.

August was a particularly horrendous month for me and put me into a depression far worse than the other one. Except this time, I didn’t want to die, I wanted to be as miserable as possible. I was sad and angry, lonely and confused, and I had just started Tecfidera. The combination of side effects from Tecfidera, and my depression was enough to throw me back into therapy except after a month of starting my antidepressants again and weekly therapy, I wasn’t any better. In fact, I was worse. I was being more self destructive and isolating myself more from my friends and family to the point where I only went to work and home.

When I hit this wall I knew it was time to change something. I found a psychiatrist who could actually handle prescribing me medication with a plan versus just throwing antidepressants at me. The psychiatrist even told me “I just feel so bad for you”. Gee, thanks guy. But you know what? It worked. The change in my medication has made a HUGE difference in my mood, my attitude, my energy levels and that change was almost instant. I realized that having someone in charge of my mental health was what I really needed. So often we have neurologists who are willing and good-hearted enough to want to help us with depression due to chronic illness, but the reality is, for many people an antidepressant isn’t enough. Many of us take Xanax for anxiety, prescribed by our neurologists and sometimes that isn’t’ enough either.

The moral of my sad story is this. Depression is often a large part of chronic illness and it will eat you alive if you let it. If you find that you are struggling and do not seem to be getting any better I would urge you to find a psychiatrist that you trust and create a relationship with them. Most times they will require therapy with a counselor in conjunction with visits to the psychiatrist. For me, I had plenty of doctors who would try to help me with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, but the doses weren’t right, and even the drugs themselves weren’t right. It would be like going to see a oncologist to treat your MS. If depression is constantly following you around, find the right doctors to give you the right medications to help. I did, and it has made all the difference. Today I am not 100% but I know that I will be again someday. And that is what the new drugs and the psychiatrist have given me. Hope.

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


  • north-star
    5 years ago

    I have Crohns and MS, so I can relate to this post and comments. I’ve had drug-induced depression and garden variety depression, both difficult to know and treat. I found the “cures” sometimes worse than the hot-wet-blanket-can’t-move-I’m-doomed-worse-than-yesterday experience I’m trying to fix. But you have to try until you find a solution, depression can be a killer because it is so sneaky and insidious. You think you’re realistic until someone or something stops and steps in to give you a reality check. When a drug or therapy starts to work, it’s almost shocking to look back on the person you were. It is my least favorite thing about MS and that (as we know too well) is saying a lot.

  • kac922
    6 years ago

    Thank you for writing this. My mom has MS, I have Ulcerative Colitis, and both of us have experienced depression – from our chronic illnesses, and from causes beyond our health. It can be so difficult to handle, knowing that the disease that ails you can only be somewhat managed, and at this time, never cured. It can be difficult when most people have no idea what it’s like to live day in and day out with pain and suffering that may never go away.

    But then there are the people who have been there, have come before us, and those who will come after. People who have experienced first hand what it’s like, people who get it. People who have been sick longer than us and have wisdom to share – how they get through the hard times, how they focus on the good things in life, how they develop gratitude for all that is still okay. And there are those that will be diagnosed after us, reeling from the shock and the fear, who will need us to be there to guide them. We have to stick together, and stay strong for each other.

    Thank you for writing. Your message helps many.

  • starsfan8
    6 years ago

    Jackie – thanks so much for sharing this…I also had ‘anti-depressants thrown at me’ from medical doctors starting back in the late 80’s…They gave me 60 mg. of Prozac and I was great after a couple of days…after a month, I was having panic attacks in the middle of the night and thinking I wanted to kill somebody and I threw it away. I tried it again and had the same result. So I finally got sent to a psychiatrist who said to me that I needed far less of it…I had he desired results after about 3 days on it, and that isn’t supposed to happen until you have been on it for a month…so he gave me 10 mg. and I was doing better…then I got numbness in my legs and thought it was because of Prozac so I went off of it again. Turns out, the numbness was the beginning signs of MS (though I didn’t know it at the time) and when I finally admitted that I needed help again, I got back into therapy, got back to a psychiatrist who put me on Cymbalta at a low level and let me build up, but last year…I still had the worst depression ever.
    For me, I had to find a spiritual answer which helped me a ton, but I know that is not for everyone. The combination of opening up spiritually, counseling and medication has helped me a ton and I am doing okay now. However, when I had the last MRI done, I also had more scarring which makes me wonder if the incredibly harsh depression last year was at a time that my brain was inflamed. Has anyone ever told you that the two were connected?
    My doctor says that there is a clear depression factor with MS, but they do think it is a chronic disease depression…not particularly tied to a specific relapse. Just curious about that…
    Unfortunately, I was depressed most of my life…so MS has just made it that much worse…

  • Cathie
    6 years ago

    Jackie, Your honest sharing of your experience is very good, opening a window for others to see they are not alone. I am blessed to not have experienced depression. I have had some issues with medication but working through that. I have had MS for over 25 years. Blessings to you for your future.

  • Mspbfh2
    6 years ago

    I had a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) long before my dx of MS, although it turns out that some of those “somatic” complaints being attributed to depression were probably early signs of MS…whatever. Getting treatment for depression is just as important as treatment for any other disease, it is also life threatening. I applaud your willingness to share your struggles!! You will help so many people by doing so. Being informed is super important. One of the first drugs I took for MS had a caution for patients with history of depression. Before I started it I ask the neuro about it and he basically said it wasn’t an issue. After six months, and close to suicide, I realized that I had been doing fairly well PRIOR to the med, and stopped it. Within a short time my mood was much improved. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is if people starting asking what is wrong, or you find yourself, sad or angry all the time,,it might be the meds (it might not be as well, but certainly pays to check it out). There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and no it is not a train coming at you! Thank you Jackie for sharing! Hang in there.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    6 years ago

    So glad to see you among us – there is so much in your stories to share and I know we will all learn from those. Depression? You’re in good company – it’s just too bad we all feel like we are traveling that path alone. I’m glad you’re here.

  • Pamela
    6 years ago

    I enjoyed reading this, as I have suffered depression for the last year. I am 54, married a great guy in 2012, but always felt like it was not fair to him to be with someone like me having MS. Long story short, I filed for divorce in September, and it completely through me into the worst kind of depression. As recent as Monday, I talked to him, and literally begged him to forgive me for what I had done, and please remarry me. After digesting what I had just said, I made up my mind that it was not the MS that prompted me to get the divorce, it would never have worked anyway. We didn’t live together, and he has no job, so I was supporting him with my disability check. All the tears I shed were uncalled for, but it woke me up to reality. It is not my fault I have this disease, and I have a great support system in family and friends. I am going to be alright, but I am going to seek therapy, for my own peace of mind. Thank you so much Jackie, and every one else who commented, you made me realize I am not alone.

  • Eileenabelle
    6 years ago

    Your honesty in dealing with depression and your courage to not give up is so encouraging to many of us. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone and can get through my depression and come out on the other side of sadness to happiness.
    The message from your post for me is to not give up and I thank you for helping me realize that.
    We will all be rooting for you to keep up the good fight!!

  • sharon
    6 years ago

    I am sorry you have to have this disease at such a young age. I wasn’t troubled by it until I was 40 though looking back had mimi problems since my 20s. Am happy the antidepressants work for you. They haven’t for me but I see a psychiatrist regularly and exercise as much as I can. In my case I am limited to water aerobics and riding a recumbent stationary bike.I started Tefidera 10 days ago and while no wretched side effects feel tired and a bit dazed. I sometimes think the hardest thing to do is say it’s okay to just kick back as long as you need to. Be well and be proud of how you’ve been proactive.

  • laura
    6 years ago

    Jackie thank you for sharing your story!! I live with depression all the time most of my days I don’t even get out of bed or get dressed! Ive lost my life as I knew it and I cant do the things that I used to with my kids and I just keep telling myself I will someday but that’s been 2yrs now!! its affecting my marriage my family ive lost friends im in church and they have been amazing but the meds don’t work and I think im finally realizing I need help and that was a hard pill to swallow!!!

  • Karen K.
    6 years ago

    Thank you for your post. Depression is such at taboo subject for so many people. I suffered from severe depression for most of my life;long before I was diagnosed with MS. It took many tries to find the right combination of meds (along with therapy) before my psychiatrist found the right combination of meds for me. No matter how long you have been depressed or how hopeless you feel, it can get better, but it often takes meds and therapy to find that hope. You don’t have to suffer; keep trying until you get the help you need.

  • lorrainecfrancis
    6 years ago

    Jackie…..I want to thank you for sharing your story….I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on 8/22/13… emotions are all over the place. I have panic attacks prior to this diagnosis and now they are more prevalent……I’m just so scared and feel so alone…..I know that I’m not but it feels thay way at times…..I do look forward to meeting new people and I thank you Jackie for paving the way……thanks so much.

  • Cathie
    6 years ago

    Hello Lorraine, I have been living with MS since the 70’s and have experienced the roller coaster ride you are now on. For me I felt there were two options, lay down on the freeway and let go of life and I had the spot selected, or to live with it. Obviously I selected the second option. It was before the internet so I bought and read books seeking answers, hope and encouragement. My best friend really hepled pull me through. My husband who is now my ex was not much help and later told me he could not deal with the MS, my kids were scared and did not understand it. Neither did I. Life has a way of working things out. I had my friends support and I had God. This may not help much but please know you are not alone. Happy to help if I can.

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    6 years ago


    Thanks so much for your honesty and good advice. Depression is rampant among us, and we don’t know enough about how to find the most effective help. Your suggestion that we stop allowing our neuros to treat our depression(if we aren’t feeling better)and find a pro who specializes in treating mood disorders is going to be a light bulb moment for many. And I’m so glad to learn that you are recovering well. It takes guts to push against depression and ineffective treatment, you are one strong woman. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.


  • Jackie Zimmerman author
    6 years ago

    Thanks Kim! I think depression is a taboo subject for some reason even though so many of us, and even “normies” deal with it daily. Its just like having MS or any other auto immune disease, we have to get awareness out there and show people that its ok to talk about it!

    Thank you again!


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