Monday, July 2, 2012

Depression and MS —The Perpetual Motion Machine

The Unspeakable Bits; From A Life With MS

Physicists have forever searched for a device which, once started, would run forever unless acted upon by an external force. I am here to tell you today that multiple sclerosis can drive depression, which falls back upon itself in a loop of perpetual motion that would have made Archimedes proud.
There are a number of resources on the Society’s website that describe depression in very good clinical language. Depression is a “clinical” issuebut let’s face itunless you’ve been inside that cloud, you have no idea what it’s like in there.

Manifestations of depression can range in depth from profound sadness and disinterest to soul-crushing terror and pain.

Part of the current understanding of depression is that it can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. The delicate equilibrium of compounds with names like serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine and others have long been equated with keeping our emotions in a socially accepted “sweet spot.” MS does crazy things to our central nervous system and, therefore, our brain’s chemistry.

Because depression is both a symptom of MS and a reaction to the stresses of life with MS, it is significantly more common in MS than in the general population or other, equally disabling chronic illnesses.

Until relatively recent history, depression was socially stigmatized. One can’t help but wonder if the myriad of television adverts for antidepressants claiming happy romps in a field full of happy children aren’t now minimizing the condition with their promised ease of treatment. 

“Take our pill,” the happy women of these commercials try to tell us. 

“Everything will be just like it was before … Better even!”

Don’t get me wrong; medication can indeed be a valuable tool for reversing depression and balancing wonky brain chemistry. But things will never be how they were before. I’m not pitying myself or our lotjust stating the fact.

Personal bouts of depression have slashed through my post diagnosis life. Many times I did not see them for what they were. Oftentimes I was too proud to admit that the cloud (or “funk” or “sadness” or “apathy” or the stack of feelings that I could not label) were, in fact, symptoms of depression.

More than a few romantic endeavors flattened under the weight of my inability to recognize or cope. Not that my partners didn’t try…

I’ve often said that MS doesn’t steal away our futures; rather, it robs us of our intended futures. In my case it stripped me of a sense of purpose. My personal journey through that difficult period in my life after MS brought a new understanding of what purpose might be found within me, and not one imposed upon me from without.

Still, even today, a dark and seamy shadow can creep up from behind – most often in those moments just before sleep when I am totally alone with myself – and whisper (in the words of DebW, in a comment on my Life With MS blog) untruths into my ears.

MS can cause depression. Depression’s symptoms can make coping with symptoms of MS seem worse than they are. Our disease has enough on its team. We shouldn’t afford it another player if we can help it.

And we can help it.

For me that help came in the form of a most remarkable clinical rehabilitation psychologist. For others I know, therapy coupled with medications helped. Dietary and physical activity, and other lifestyle modifications have worked for others in my life. What will work for you is as individual as you, as individual as your MS.

The important thing to remember is that help can only be offered if it is asked for and we can only ask if we recognize depression ourselves, or accept the possibility if someone close brings it up.

Be sure to discuss any significant mood changes with your healthcare provider (getting help for mood changes is not a sign of weakness, it’s an act of strength); connect with an MS Navigator for help finding a mental health professional with experience in MS; check out the many resources on the Society's website

Wishing you and your family the best of health.

Cheers

Trevis


You can follow Trevis via his Life With MS Facebook Page on Twitter and on the EverydayHealth.com “Life With MS” Blog. And also, check out his bi-monthly blog for the UK.

15 comments:

  1. MS not only depresses me it isolates me and that leads to more depression. It is a vicious circle.

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    1. I agree. It does keep yourself much to you self. especially if your family isn't around you.

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  2. Well I appreciate the struggles that we all go through, the fact is that we are alive. And today could be the best day that its going to be, so I work every day to try and make the most of it. To be grateful for my life and the people in it and know that it does not need to be different because the way it is is the gift that makes it my life. Do I have shitty days? Sure! Do I get pissed? hell, yes. do I get scared? Of course. But accepting all of those feelings and thoughts and not giving them all the power leaves me more room for gratitude. Depression sucks. But sitting around being depressed is a choice. I can always take my depressed ass out for a walk in the sun and that seems to make things a little better. And there is always room to help another person and that makes things A LOT better.

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  3. Depression sucks. It affects each of us differently. For me, it is soul-sucking, leaving me without choice. Thankfully with the help of many medications & talk therapy, the chemical balance is tweaked and I can emerge from a dark space that I thought had no exit; sometimes I can even take my "depressed ass out for a walk...." Depression isolates me and I fight it. Every morning. It is not easy.

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  4. I, too, have dealt with depression in my time with MS. I have found above all other things to not isolate myself with the depression.

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  5. Trevis, once again you hit the nail on the MS head! If only we could yank that nail out of our lives! I live in the Seattle area too, How can I find out the name of the clinical rehabilitation psychologist who helped you?

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    1. See my reply below, Spaz. Cheers

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  6. With a disease which effects the brain physiologically, taking medications which effect the brain chemically and dealing with the daily struggles of pain and lack of energy or mobility, is it any wonder depression is high among those with MS? My wife fought a long and hard battle with MS and the depression which went along with it.

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  7. With a disease which effects the brain physiologically, taking medications which effect the brain chemically and dealing with the daily struggles of pain and lack of energy or mobility, is it any wonder depression is high among those with MS? My wife fought a long and hard battle with MS and the depression which went along with it.

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  8. dear Travis
    if I could just make one correction in your blog it would be to put an! After each and every sentence! I too have been blessed with an amazing clinical psychologist who has made a world of difference in my life and been seeing my life's purpose

    depression is a blinding blizzard in which you are trying to make your way to a distant city and can't even see 1 foot in front of you. It's so easy to lose your way, to misread the signs, and to stumble and fall against all of the obstacles in the way. And yet even with all of that I have found a way to utilize the gift.s I have been given. And Travis, I have found strength in the words that you write to give the rest of us a heads up along the way. And that really is your gift to those of us who suffer with you with this god damn MS.
    http://www.thepottymouthbook.com/

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    1. Trevis, please forgive my typing errors above. I am using a voice recognition system and forgot to preview before I published. I hope you can lol at the whole mess and see the underlying message. Thank you for all you do. And I mean that.
      Renae

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  9. Spaz; It was Dr Michelle Toshima at the Swedish MS Center
    http://www.swedish.org/Physicians/Michelle-Toshima#axzz1zalr0r6S
    She worked wonders for me and others I know living with MS.
    Tell her you know me... She'll charge you double ;)
    Cheers
    Trevis

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  10. It's like you were reading my mind, echoing my very thoughts... "MS doesn’t steal away our futures; rather, it robs us of our intended futures. In my case it stripped me of a sense of purpose" ... "a dark and seamy shadow can creep up from behind – most often in those moments just before sleep when I am totally alone with myself..."

    I suffered from major depression all my life, and only received the MS diagnosis at the age of 57. Changed and increased my anti-depressants, and ironically added anti-anxiety meds, and still it sneaks up when I least expect it.

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  11. Through a illness what kind of effects the brain physiologically, taking prescription drugs what kind of influence the brain chemically and dealing with the daily battles of pain as well as insufficient energy or perhaps movement, is it just about any wonder depression is tall among those alongside MS? My wife fought a very long and also frustrating battle with MS and additionally the depression what kind of went along with it.

    CPAP

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