Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mood Changes in Multiple Sclerosis

The National MS Society in partnership with The MS Society of Canada have published a short book and accompanying video entitled, “Mood Changes in Multiple Sclerosis.”  In it, the contributors outline the mood changes common in MS and offer strategies for treatment.  The preface states, “We now understand that mood and physical functioning are intricately entwined, and treating one area often brings profound improvement in other aspects of an individual’s life—and the lives of their families.”

Specifically the book speaks about grief, depression, and anxiety, and touches on bipolar disorder and pseudobulbar affect.  There is also a section devoted to fatigue and mood.  Fatigue being one of the most common symptoms of MS it is also not just a physical symptom.  Fatigue can also be a symptom of depression and a change in mood can affect fatigue.

We talked about mood swings at my weekly wellness program recently.  Changes in mood, depression and anxiety are very common for people who live with Multiple Sclerosis.  I struggle with anxiety.  Awaking at night with fear and worries not based in any discernible or otherwise verifiable fact, my fantasies skew in the direction of the catastrophic.

Eventually I signed up for a series of mind-body-medicine-focused anxiety management classes.  In them I learned to recognize anxiety when it arose in me by learning to practice mindfulness.  The later classes in the series added the meditative movement practice of Tai Chi.  And a simple yoga regimen gave me tools to improve my state of mind and gently strengthen my body.  Mindfulness practice has been a game changer for me and I am able to cope much better with stress and anxiety.

There is only one you.  There isn't a spare in the trunk of the car, or stashed in the hall closet, waiting patiently should your current self become too tattered to function.  So, if you've been blessed with a chronic illness and the ups and downs of everyday life become a bit much, which they will, take heart, there is hope.

Life with or without a chronic illness is not easy.  Trying to sugar-coat this stuff in a way that makes it any easier to swallow isn't a very useful way to approach the challenges but neither is pulling the pillow over your head and giving up.  What I would say though, is to try not to add fuel to the fire.  The realities of physical and emotional health can be exacerbated and intensified by a toxic attitude, doomsday perspective or rampant negativity.

Granted, feelings do emerge and can run roughshod across our lives.  Feelings are valid, but they don't have to be in charge.  They can be released.  And just as mysteriously as they pop up, they also fade away.  Holding onto the saga, running the stories of sadness and despair on auto-repeat only deepens the rut they carve out in your thought life.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Hi.  Yes, I’m still around.  Long story.  Retirement.  Not retirement.  Back to school.  Bought a wheelchair.  It’s all good.

I went to the dentist a few months ago.  The procedure I was getting required lidocaine which naturally rendered the left side of my face and my lips and chin feeling as though someone had stuffed them with foam rubber.  The worst part of the entire visit was that injection of lidocaine, even with the swabbing down of the injection site with numbing gel.

As the drug took effect, I thought of my legs.  I thought of how similar my oral numbness felt to that compression stocking sensation I feel in both of my legs.  That tingling is familiar!  My MS legs must be full of lidocaine!

I had to be careful about my mouth for a couple of hours after my appointment.  My face looked entirely normal, but it felt swollen and inert.  No one would know, no one could tell what I was experiencing.  Silent, invisible and very real.  So goes MS.

I stopped at the grocery store before heading home.  I glanced sideways at the scooters parked next to the front door, but grabbed a shopping cart instead and started pushing.  Lidocaine legs are passably functional but definitely taxed by the effort it takes to use them.  Familiar theme for those of us who live with MS.  My list was short and a walk around the store counts as exercise in my book.

By Ben Mills - Own work, Public Domain,