For blogger Alexandra, living with depression helped prepare her for life with MS. She shares what the two have taught her.read more
According to some, multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the Central Nervous System of approximately 2,500,000 people worldwide. Its signs and symptoms vary greatly affecting every single person differently, and its rate of progression is unpredictable as is the degree of disability it inflicts on its hosts. Overall it is bad newsbut there is a modicum of good news included. MS is not life threatening and it is not fatal.
Although MS is not a death sentence, it can still be an extremely overwhelming diagnosis, and therefore contribute to a sense of grief. In 1969, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book on the five stages of grief where she considers grief in the context of the passing of a loved one. The five stages of grief that she identifies are Denial Anger Bargaining Depression Acceptance, and thus the acronym DABDA was born. I believe that the five stages of grief hypothesised by Kübler-Ross can be applied to any grieving process. Not everybody grieves in the same way so some or all or none of the five stages may apply.
I was diagnosed with MS in 1988 and I did not want to believe it. Over the next number of years I preferred to listen to non-medical people telling me that the doctor had made a mistake to actually believing that what the doctor said might be true. I didn’t need a walking stick or any other assistive technology. I didn’t look sickly and I still don’t or so people keep telling me. In 1998 I decided to look for a second opinion and unfortunately the diagnosis was confirmed. I could no longer deny it and realised that I had spent the previous 10 years like the proverbial ‘drowning man’ grasping at straws. It was time to face reality.
Was I angry with the initial diagnosis even though I refused to fully accept it? Well yes I was! Here I was 31 years of age, married with 2 young daughters with the dreams and aspirations that are common at that age. My world had just been blown apart. Where was my anger directed? I had no specific target just God, the world and life in general. That age old question “why me” permeated my thoughts what seemed like constantly.
I had no bargaining chips and I had no one to bargain with anyway. Although I was struggling inside, i was beginning to accept my diagnosis.
I am lucky in the respect that I am very positive by nature so depression never popped up on my radar. I have heard it said that if one sense is compromised another is accentuated. Although MS compromises many parts of the body, in my case my positivity was accentuated.
When I was originally diagnosed my neurologist told me that there was ‘no cause, no cure and no treatment’ for MS. How could I accept the diagnosis when I didn’t even really understand it? It was about five years after my diagnosis before I began to finally enter into the acceptance phase, and only after the second opinion and confirmation did I finally and fully accept what the doctor had said back in 1988. One of my Mum’s favourite sayings was “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” and this phrase took root in my life about 5 years after my diagnosis. I was hoping for the best but tentative plans were being formulated for ‘the worst’. The second opinion and subsequent confirmation caused me to concentrate my thoughts and now I just had to finalise the plan. I had accepted that MS was now part of my life but I was not resigned to MS destroying my life.