Chelsey B., Tina Z., and Pam S. talk with Dr. Klineova about dealing with the initial MS diagnosis and building emotional wellness for the long term.
Mental & Emotional Wellness
EMOTIONAL IMPACT AFTER MS DIAGNOSIS
Dr. Wanda Castro: Welcome to She Talks MS. My name is Wanda Castro. I work with Biogen. And today we will be talking about mental and emotional wellness. Tell me when were you diagnosed and what were your first symptoms?
Chelsey B.: So, it’ll actually be two years at the end of this month. I had issues with my eye. And then it was probably about two, two and a half months before I had a diagnosis with MS. It was just finally like, actually relieving to have an answer, and to know what was going on after so long of just being confused, and in pain, and just not knowing why.
Wanda: What about you Tina?
Tina Z.: I was diagnosed fairly quickly, in 2008. MS took away my ability to walk, took away my ability to move my arms. But it can’t have my sense of humor, it can’t have my friendships with people, that’s mine. And there is nothing that can take that from me. MS is a very humbling disease. So, when things come up that can be humiliating, I dig down and I find my sense of humor. That’s my superpower, that’s my superpower. The thing that I say is, today may be the best day you’re going to have in your life, so enjoy it. Because if tomorrow’s not as good, you have something to enjoy. Find something to enjoy every day.
Wanda: What about you, Pam? Have you been impacted by either emotional or mental wellness?
Pam S.: I think today, I’m 20 plus years into MS, so emotionally I’m good. But if you had asked me that question during my first year of diagnosis, my second year of diagnosis, I was a hot mess. It impacted me tremendously, emotionally, because I felt like the disease had completely stripped who I was, how I defined myself. I was pretty active before I was diagnosed, and I physically could not do those things that made me who I felt I was. So, it was a pretty tumultuous time until I kind of figured out how to navigate around the disease and figured out it was going to be okay.
Wanda: And how was that process from that point that you were to where you are now?
Pam S.: For me to get to the point where I am now certainly was not overnight. I can’t say that I’ve accepted my diagnosis, but I coexist with it. We have learned to work together. But it was a process of 20 plus years. I’m much, much better, but I feel like I still have room to get even better.
Wanda: So Chelsey, can you tell us a little bit about what things have impacted your mental or emotional health?
Chelsey B.: Just being diagnosed, since I’m still coming off a diagnosis, and still working out and figuring out everything daily, two years in, it’s still a learning process. I definitely feel myself getting a little bit more frustrated, a little bit angrier with certain things, and I catch myself. I’m like, wait a second, why am I feeling like this? I don’t need to be so frustrated right now. I have to catch myself in those moments, and take a nice big, deep breath, and everything’s fine.
Wanda: So, do you feel that any depression or anxiety you may experience comes in waves, or was it just a chronic condition?
Pam S.: I think I was sad, but I don’t think I was truly depressed. And I went to my neurologist because a friend of mine told me I needed to take something. And when I went to my neurologist, he’s like, Pam, you are not depressed. Yeah, you’re going through something, but I know you, you can get through this. And I didn’t know the difference, you know, depression, and I just knew I was really down. But I did work out of it.
Wanda: So, Dr. Klineova, following up on that, how do you differentiate this, as Pam said, sadness versus actual depression?
Dr. Sylvia Klineova (Neurology, Mount Sinai Health System): Right, so there is no test that we can run to tease out whether the depression is what we call situational, mood change, or adjustment disorder, right, when we diagnose patients with MS, or whether they have a depression caused by multiple sclerosis. So, we try to build that mental and emotional health, build the resilience, build coping abilities, so they can go and live their lives to the fullest. We talk about wellness and what encompasses wellness. And we, you know, make sure that women address every issue. If there’s a need for therapists, or any other mental health professionals, like cognitive therapists, we identify that.
Wanda: So, if you are going to give one piece of advice to those that are viewing us, what will it be?
Tina Z.: It’s important to give yourself permission not to always be happy and perky—and that to me is a huge relief.
Pam S.: If you feel that you’re having emotional problems or cognitive problems or mental health problems, don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid, just know that there are at least a million other people that could potentially be feeling the same as you. You’re not in it by yourself. Talk to your healthcare provider. If you don’t ask, they can’t help.
Wanda: So ladies, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I know it was a hard topic, but you all gave us really, really good points. So thank you so much.
All: Thank you.
Everyone’s experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. Your healthcare provider should always be your primary source of information. The people in this video are paid spokespeople for Biogen.