Depression has been my constant companion for almost as long as I can remember, certainly since age 14-15. As a child, I was awkward physically and socially; I was a very short, skinny little thing who my classmates just loved to pick on. Making friends was hard and I grew bitter at an age no child should never be bitter. This carried over into the teen years; even after I’d attained normal height for my age I retained the social awkwardness that I’d developed pre-adolescence out of self-protection. This never fully went away. As a young adult I made many mistakes in dating, relationships, and friendships and to this day it’s very difficult to let others in and be emotionally and socially vulnerable.
Add to those childhood struggles some family difficulties growing up and a possibly inherited bent towards mental illness from my father and I believe it all came together to form my struggle with depression amongst other issues such as fear of abandonment and attachment issues that aren’t relevant to this blog.
When I was diagnosed with MS, one of the first things I learned was how common depression was in MS sufferers. Well isn’t that great, I thought. As if I need more of that. I learned that depression in MS is not simply situational as a reaction to the diagnosis and possible limitations resulting from the condition, but also due to actual physical changes in the brain.
I’ve been able to manage thus far without medication as not only do I not want to be medicated but I also personally believe antidepressants simply mask the issue rather than dealing with it. Until I gave birth I’d been seeing a therapist fairly regularly but it’s quite difficult to deal with a lifetime of issues in 50-minute increments. Plus the medical issue is its own animal that can’t be dealt with through talk therapy. So I take it day by day. Some days are easier than others; some are really hard. Being chronically depressed has such a strange dichotomy—life can be beautiful, my marriage can be going very well, my baby daughter brings more and more joy every day…and yet a cloud hangs over it all, for no readily apparent reason.
It frustrates my husband—he’s empathetic to a point but he doesn’t really understand it. As I don’t believe anyone without a mental illness ever really can. He’s very buck-up-and-keep-on; wallowing in feelings has never been his style. And oh, if I had a nickel for every time I wished I could be that way, I’d be a wealthy woman. But I can only be who I am and do the best I know how.
Sometimes I worry about the future with MS and depression in that if it’s a struggle now, with full physical function and no limitations of any kind, how much worse will it get if that should change? One of many bridges I can only cross when I get there.