The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. ~ Theodore I. Rubin
Having a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis can often have us traveling a journey of hills and valleys of emotion – an emotional roller coaster, if you will. Dealing with MS means we are often facing changes on a daily basis. Big changes. Little changes. Overlapping changes. Multiple changes. Changes in lifestyle. Changes in family relationships, friendships. Changes at work, or possible loss of work. Changes are inevitable and on-going. This can lead to a lot of various emotional reactions.
The national MS society sums up some of this really well ( Emotional Changes and MS ), as do many other national MS websites. But I am often asked: what does that really look like when you are living it? What does that mean? Is it normal?? The answers are very individual.
Here are some samples of what I mean (and links to what I have experienced myself):
- Emotional MS Moments
Stress: Life can generally be full of stress. A chronic illness like MS generally adds a big dose of disease-related stress on top of everything else for not only the person with MS, but their support (family, friends). MS is unpredictable and just anticipating the next symptom or exacerbation can be a significant source of stress. MS can also lead to some major life changes such as loss of mobility and interference with work. The person with MS faces significant and frequent challenges in coping with a potentially stressful life. This can often mean a roller coaster ride of emotions!
Grief: People with MS often experience frequent losses— some small, some big (for example of the ability to work, to walk, or to participate in certain leisure activities). Grieving is generally related to changes in self-image triggered by the disease—e.g., no longer being able to think of oneself as an athlete or a high-achieving super mom! Grieving and naturally mourning for these losses may resemble depression. A person experiencing grief may at times be able to enjoy some of life’s activities. Grief generally resolves with time even without treatment. Seeking counseling, and participating in support groups, as well as developing an understanding and supportive environment can help the process along – which is important given the very uncertain and variable nature of MS itself. (Source: National MS Society)
Depression: Clinical depression is more persistent and unremitting, with continuous symptoms lasting at least two weeks. People with MS and all those closely associated with them should be aware that depression in its various forms is common during the course of multiple sclerosis. In fact, studies have suggested that clinical depression, the severest form of depression, is more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or even in persons with other chronic, disabling conditions. Depression does not indicate weak character and it should not be considered something shameful that needs to be hidden. Depression is not something that a person can control or prevent by willpower or determination. And to add to the problem – the depression stigma create more stress, thus possibly exacerbating depression. Not good! (Source: National MS Society)
Emotional Lability: Emotional lability can be seen as “moodiness”. This may affect people with MS in different ways and is often seen as rapid and generally unpredictable changes in emotions (tears, laughter, anger, irritability – all in a short span of time possibly). It isn’t clear if the emotional lability observed in MS is due to the stress related to the disease or if it is caused by some changes in the brain. Whatever the cause, emotional lability can sometimes be one of the most challenging aspects of MS from the standpoint of family life. For me, I don’t get angry often, but when I am really MS-fatigued, my kids and family may complain about bouts of irritability or impatience because it is so out of character for me. It really varies for all individuals.
Seek and build a strong support system. That is the key to successfully navigating the emotional ups and downs of chronic illness.
The art of life is constant readjusting to your surroundings. ~Kazuko Okokaura
- Lifestyle Changes due to Chronic Illness and How to Deal with it (msmeans.wordpress.com)
- Masked depression (khanhha.wordpress.com)
- Is grieving a mental illness? (theglobeandmail.com)
- Grief: When is Sorrow an Illness? (jajsamos.wordpress.com)
- Natural & Unnatural Emotions (journalingtruth.com)
- When Life Gets You Down: Coping With Situational Depression (everydayhealth.com)