The Emotional Effects of MS
How does Multiple Sclerosis affect people’s emotions? That is such a difficult question to address because the answer is so broad. Just like MS effects everyone differently (symptomatically) it effects everyone’s emotions differently. How it effects a 30 year old mother of two and how it effects a 25 year old single male is completely different. Age, gender, children, careers, ability to work, what a person has “lost”, support of family and friends (or lack of), there are just so many factors that may make a situation easier or harder to deal with. Then you have the many different types of personalities; as an example, we all deal with death differently. Some people handle grief well, some poorly, some hide it so it looks like they are handling it well even though it’s eating them away from the inside out; everyone is different.
I do see similarities in what people “complain” about though. Not all people but a lot of them. The number one thing that I see as an issue for most people is loneliness. “No one understands”. I have seen so many relationships end because of MS. Not just intimate relationships but friendships as well. People either don’t seem to understand how MS is affecting their partner/friend or just don’t want to be around us because “it is too depressing” or we are “too much of a burden”. As horrible and shallow as it is I am kind of glad to have seen those true colors in people because it let me see the extent of our friendship; so many relationships that I thought were unconditional turned out to be rather conditional. Though I would rather them not in my life, it gets very lonely because (in my case) I have no one there for me. No one to hang out with. No one to talk to. It’s lonely. So sometimes I am OK with a crappy friend vs no friend at all.
The second most common thing I hear about is frustration/anger over not being able to do the things people once could. MS robs us of certain abilities; people who liked to run every morning can now barely walk. “I can’t drive anymore”, “I can’t cook”, “I am not as artistic”, “I can’t garden” and so on. I know that I, personally, don’t feel like the person I once was. I am going through a sort of identity crisis because all the things I used to do, the things that made me ME, I can’t do them anymore. So what do I enjoy? What makes me happy? I don’t know! I can’t do the things I once could and it’s very depressing. I definitely get angry now and then and sometimes that anger is a good motivational fuel but most the time it just makes life more difficult and depressing.
And there lies number three; depression. For whatever the reason, so many of us are depressed. Yes, sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance and all that is needed is medication but a lot (if not most) of the time it’s situational. Life gets tough, we can’t do what we want or used to be able to do, we loose independence, we have no friends and so we fall into a deep depression.
In case you didn’t piece it together I am horribly depressed more often than not. I am on medication and yes, I can feel it helping my chemical imbalance; I almost never wake up feeling depressed for no reason anymore. I am still depressed though. I am depressed about my situation which I think is normal. I mean the feeling not the situation. In these cases we need to seek the help of a therapist (especially when we have no one at home to talk to) who may be able to offer ideas on how to change our situations. Ideas that we never thought about. Now even though I know this I still have not seen a therapist. I have a million and two reasons why not but really? They are just that; excuses… As hard as it may be I think a lot of us need to seek this form of help because they are trained to see what may be really getting to us and why. Knowing the underlying cause makes it easier to find a solution. Many people just avoid and avoid and avoid. “It won’t help” they say and maybe they are right but when you really think about it? What do you have to loose? A couple hours of your day? And more importantly; what if it does help you? I think a lot of people just don’t want to have to admit they might have a problem that they can not fix on their own even if doing so (admitting) could make that problem go away. Bottom line? If you keep that much negativity bottled up inside of you there is a good chance it won't actually do anything good. So we need a way to let it out. For years writing has been my means of dealing with my problems but I am not so sure it works that great anymore...
Things don’t change unless you change them. I know it’s not that easy but it is that simple. Although I have to wonder, how good is that advice coming from someone who personally needs to follow it? Baby steps I suppose.
How well do people around you understand MS?