One of the common side effects of multiple sclerosis is depression. Not long after my most recent relapse, I recognized symptoms of depression and discussed appropriate treatment with my family and my doctor. Read more about MS and depression HERE.
On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.
There are different types of depression, and they can be linked to different causes. Symptoms can range from minor (but still disabling) through to very severe. Symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of loss, disillusionment, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping,
My first experience with depression was following the birth of my first child. I called these the “years of the brown robe” because I pretty much never got dressed unless I was going to church because “good” Christians can’t be depressed or shopping for groceries–a necessity of life. This depression was profoundly deep and lasted several years.
Looking back, I believe that during these years I experienced depression related to the trauma of a sexual assault when I was nineteen years old. I felt enormous guilt for not being a “good mother” to my children or a “good wife” to my husband. Unlike the church I attend now, the church I went to during this time in my life didn’t talk about how the Bible related to practical issues like mental and physical health. I believed I was supposed to be in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right happy all the time.” To learn more, read the article “How Trauma Can Lead to Depression.”
My second period of depression occurred approximately five years later. It seemed to be linked to a medication I was taking for migraines. Once I stopped taking the medication, the depression disappeared.
The depression I’ve experienced with my MS has seemed persistent yet more manageable that my two previously episodes of depression. I’ve found several key factors to be helpful in beating the blues:
- Talk to your doctor about whether or not medication may be right for you. Chemicals and hormones in your body may be burnt out and need a re-boot to recover. Anti-depressants are a tool to help you make better choices–they do not make choices for you. There is no shame in taking medicine that addresses biological illnesses. Your brain functions chemically and sometime may need medicine in the same way your pancreas and heart need medicine.
- Try to get out into nature at least a little every day. I have trouble walking, but I walk to the mailbox. I pull a few weeds. I’m not supposed to be in the sun or in heat, so I spend my time outside in the morning. Read a book in the park. Take your lunch break outside. Drive to the beach, a lake or river. The beauty of flowers, the scent of the grass, the sound of birds lifts our spirits. God wired us this way.
- Do something to lift someone else’s spirits. Send a card. Pay for someone’s lunch. Send an anonymous gift. Write a letter of appreciation. Tell someone how beautiful they are. Thank a police officer, fireman, teacher, pastor, nurse, doctor, social worker, or other people helper.
- Remind yourself who God says you are. Beautiful. Chosen. Flawless. Forgiven. Beloved. His child. Depression often produces negative self-talk. Be committed to mindfulness in the battle against stinkin’ thinking–about yourself, others, your circumstances, your future, even about who God is and His role in your life.
What about you? Have you or someone you love struggled with depression? How have you dealt with it? Who or what has helped you most?