This post has been several months in the making. I don’t mean that I’ve been writing and perfecting it all that time, rather I’ve been summoning up the courage to write it. Why, when I find it so easy to share such embarrassing incidents as wetting myself, do I find it so hard to share (admit?) that I struggle with (whisper it) depression? Is it that I’m ashamed in some way? Am I frightened you’ll all judge me for it? Am I scared of appearing weak? In truth, the answer is ‘no’, or at least I don’t think so… I want the answer to be ‘no’ but there’s a chance it may actually be ‘yes’. There just seems to be something so personal about the workings of the mind and feelings and emotions. I guess I’ve never been one to show my vulnerable side. Since childhood I have built up a persona of being happy and upbeat about life. I have an image to maintain, especially now I have my blog. But it is precisely because of my blog that I need to address this subject. When I started writing about living with MS I made a pact with myself that I would be as open and honest as possible because that way others will know they are not alone in dealing with all the madness that MS brings.
People with MS are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. It is rife in the world of chronic illness, how can it not be when people are dealing with so much pain and strain?!
Generally I am very good at masking my feelings, although I’m not sure why I feel the need to do this. However, sometimes I let my frustration get the better of me; it is tough being in constant discomfort and even pain and I have been known to snap. It’s like my patience levels have dropped a notch or two. And I know this is very common in people with MS, I’ve even read that people’s personalities can completely alter if that part of the brain is being attacked. Whatever the reason, it definitely makes sense to me that the built up vexation from living with long-term pain, particularly when no-one can see nor understand it, will inevitably lead to some form of anger, repressed or otherwise. Whatever the cause, I have been taking anti-depressants for the past 7 years and while they’ve really helped to keep my mood more stable they are a right bugger to come off and I so want to stop popping pills; but the withdrawal symptoms are worse than the original symptoms for which I started taking them!
Depression is more than just anger and frustration though. When it strikes there is this feeling that everything is so petty and pointless. Nothing matters. Nothing is important anymore. There’s no light in sight and no end to the unhappiness and depressive thoughts – nothing in the world can be right again; there’s no hope, no joy, no enthusiasm for life. Darkness shrouds you and it is a most unpleasant place to be. Happily, if I may use such a word in the context of this post, I find that my depression comes and goes. For me there are usually triggers, be it something small like being surrounded by too much negativity or people whining about silly things, or something bigger that affects people I love. I am far too easily affected by sadness in other people’s lives, even people I don’t know; I also find it very difficult to be around negative people without being brought down by them. Depression is a funny old thing and different for so many people. I know I am lucky not to be completely taken over by it; I never give in to the urge to stay in bed and shut myself off from the world, but I know people who do and it’s awful.
I don’t have any amazing words of wisdom for dealing with depression, but I would say that talking about it helps and bottling things up does not. I am very lucky to have a lot of love and support in my life. I happen to have THE best mum and dad in the Universe and a pretty perfect hubby to boot. I also have my therapist, who is right up there with the most awesome of professionals, even if she refuses to see herself as one… Life can be jolly hard at times, but if you try and look for the simplest of joys that are to be found all around us then eventually a chink of light may just start to shine through.