This is a little bit different to my normal posts but I am always talking to those close to me about mental health to help raise awareness and encourage others to speak out to. While speaking to people I know I have come to realise a lot of people can suffer with mental health and for all different reasons, so today I am going to touch on how MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
Lets start with what MS is for those of you who don’t know… Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects your brain and spinal cord. In MS, the coating that protects your nerves (myelin) is damaged, and this causes a range of symptoms.
Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life, but treatments and specialists can help you to manage the condition and its symptoms. For more information please see Multiple Sclerosis Society UK.
My friend Alex now 23 has been suffering with MS for a number of years. She was diagnosed back in February 2015, when she was 19 years old. As you can imagine this is not something she would have been expecting at such a young age. Especially as she has always been a health person and never had an other issues in her life. When receiving such life changing news like this, it can have such a huge effect on your mental health and your life in general. So I will include the responses from my friend Alex who has helped shed a bit of light on how MS and Mental health has affected her.
How did you feel when you got diagnosed?
It felt as though my life was over, not being the same person anymore, I all of sudden felt this overwhelming feeling of no-one liking me anymore and that I had been left out in the cold. My life didn’t seem the same anymore, I all of sudden got a huge amount go anxiety surrounding me… would I get better? Could I walk again? This was terrifying and I have never suffered with my mental health but this one big moment in my life changed this.
How did this impact your Mental Health back then?
This big revelation has such an impact on my mental health, I was depressed. I have never had depression before and my life had been turned upside down. The life I knew was no more and I felt isolated and everyone was ‘normal’ and I couldn’t even hold a glass which was heart breaking being 19 and wanting to have fun with my friends. This left me to feel like an outsider and not the person who I wanted to be. I wanted to be the person I was a week ago before I had an episode and couldn’t even walk to the toilet.
Being told my life had changed from MS I was anxious people would treat me differently and wouldn’t treat me the same. I would be seen as a causing too much of an issue when going out as I might not be able to do this or I might not be able to go on holiday and enjoy myself like my friends were.
How did people treat you when they found out?
People at work were people being nosey, they just wanted to know what was happening. A lot of the people I didn’t even know me and they seemed to think they had the right to ask me what was going on. Just because I had come back to work with a walking stick they somehow seemed to think it was there business what was wrong with me.
Friends and the close colleagues were very supportive. They would make me dinner everyday and lots of cups of teas, this made things easier and felt like not all was doom and gloom!
Now my family were amazing, they would reassure me when I needed it, my mum would sit and watch day time tele with me, which meant even though I couldn’t do much, I wasn’t on my own.
Boyfriend at the time wasn’t very supportive and changed his life and wasn’t able to deal with this. Our future had changed a matter of minutes. This was hard to deal with as everything I knew and planned with him had changed in a matter of moments. I just didn’t know what the future held for me anymore.
Does it still have an impact on your Mental Health? If so, what Mental Health issues do you come across?
One thing which I have noticed since my diagnosis is that there are a lot of mood swings which come with it. This can be hard as Im never sure how my day is going to go, this can be difficult for my friends and family. I can become withdrawn and don’t want to be around anyone. Isolated. This is not something I like to do but it is easy for this to happen without me even realising.
Anxiety has been a huge part of my illness especially when I am having a relapse. This is down to the fact that I feel as though everyone is staring at me. Mood swings can contribute to this.
How do you manage your illness and Mental Health?
I don’t really talk about my mental health, as I am ashamed and people just don’t understand. Not one of my friends have MS, so how could anyone ever comprehend what I’m going through, it is just like mental health and is an invisible illness. I am very good at ringing my nurse at the hospital if I need support they are very helpful and efficient when getting back to us.
I keep myself busy and only recently started spending some time for myself. ‘Me’ time has made me realise how important it is to have that time with my thoughts and feelings. This is highly important and has definitely helped with my mental health.
Do you talk about your Mental Health at all?
The only person I do talk to is Vanessa (who writes this blog). She has been huge help when it comes to my mental health.
Do you think there is a stigma which surrounds Mental Health and MS?
Yes there is definetly a stigma which surrounds mental health as people just don’t understand, they see this as being dramatic and that you have nothing to ‘worry’ about. It’s hard as mental health is an invisible illness and people don’t understand what it is like within the shoes of that person. People are not very accepting that’s the hardest thing.
With MS it is a little bit similar to that of mental health as because I look fine people forget that I have this illness. They do not seem to understand the complexity of this illness and a lot of time people don’t even want to educate themselves on this either which is more frustrating.
MS has such a complexity around it and they don’t seem to get this, as soon as the symptoms stop they seemed to think that I am cured and the thing is this is not the case at all! As unfortunately this is not curable.
People don’t understand the illness, this is more common than people realise but not too common as another illness such as Parkinson’s. Once you have this, you realise how many people are suffering in silence. I had never even heard of it before being diagnosed. I think this is something which needs to be focused on like Mental health as society is quite oblivious and not willing to learn about these life changing illnesses.
What advice would you give to other people suffering?
“Be proud of who you are and not as someone else sees you. And if you cant see the bright side find someone who will sit in the dark with you!”