How Dealing with Depression Helped Me Deal with MS

Alexandra Reiche
Written by
Alexandra Reiche

When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was confused to say the least. I didn’t know how to deal with the news other than to cry and seek comfort from my loved ones. After I’d learned to accept the prospect, I decided to tackle the disease head-on and get as educated on it as possible. As I started going to lectures and presentations on MS, I started talking to others battling the condition, and realized a striking similarity. Our new needs, the adjustments necessary to improve our quality of life, were similar to the needs I had while battling depression.

For a long time, I considered depression a burden I’d rather not call my own. Now I realize it had given me a head start in dealing with my next big challenge: MS.

Breaks are Important and Okay

One of the major changes I’ve experienced with MS is that my body always lets me know when it’s time to take a break. When I’m under too much stress, old symptoms flare up and I get migraines; when I’ve been ignoring the signs for too long, I can even experience a relapse. Long story short, MS forces me to take my needs seriously. I experienced a lot of the same symptoms when I left the job I loved. My working conditions deteriorated to a point where they caused depression, so I quit and took a huge break for several months, where I did absolutely nothing. I sat at home, went to therapy and lived off my unemployment benefit. I watched reruns of Star Trek and went to bed at nine or ten, sometimes even eight. I avoided people because it was exhausting to be around them, and I wanted to take care of only myself. I felt mildly guilty for it, but my depression prevented me from doing anything else, so I just went with it.

Now that my depression is more or less in check, I still spend entire days doing exactly that. I get the ice cream out and binge watch my favorite movie or TV show all day. And I don’t feel guilty anymore. I know now that when every fiber in your body tells you that it’s time to take a break, you need a break. So instead of fighting it, I take it and I’m not ashamed.

Note What Improves Your Mood

During my time at home, I noticed the man selling the newspaper in front of my supermarket would always thank me cheerfully when I tipped him or bought one of his papers. I realized it brightened my day tremendously to experience such undiluted positivity. So, when getting my groceries or even leaving the house had been an ordeal, I made extra sure I had change on me when I left the store, just to brighten both of our days. And I still do.

Around the same time, I realized the atmosphere at my hairdresser’s was so warm and welcoming that it lifted my mood just to be there. So, every once in a while I treat myself to a new haircut - not just to tidy up split ends, but also to enjoy an hour in the company of the wonderful people there.

Speak Up

The hardest lesson my depression taught me is if I didn’t care for myself, no one would. Because of that, I learned to voice my needs openly and clearly. This has been extremely helpful for me while living with MS, because I have needs many people don’t understand and may even take the wrong way. Even though I’m still struggling not to feel guilty about some of them, I’ve come a long way.

Appreciate the Small Things

Since I have been battling both depression and MS, I now literally stop and smell the roses. I visit the park when the dahlias are in bloom, I watch the sparrows steal crumbs when I’m in a café having breakfast with my loved ones, and when I go running, I make sure I run past the pond where the swans are raising their young. When we learn to appreciate the small things, this world really is such a beautiful place!

I never would have thought that experiencing depression could be a good thing, but now I’ve realized that everything we go through teaches us something, and if we’re lucky, we are able to understand and be grateful for it.

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