Content Warnings: Depression, chronic illness, multiple sclerosis
I am writing to share a part of my life that I have found increasingly challenging to navigate, with the hope that sharing my experience might foster understanding, empathy, or perhaps even provide some comfort to others dealing with similar circumstances.
At the age of 33, I am living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and depression. As you might imagine, this coexistence of conditions is not merely difficult, but can often feel insurmountable.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system, disrupting the flow of information between the brain and the body. The unpredictability of the disease and the wide range of potential symptoms—including fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness and spasms, and problems with coordination and balance—present a daily challenge.
Depression, on the other hand, is an invisible but incredibly heavy burden that I carry. It has the power to cloud my thoughts and color my world in shades of gray. It robs me of joy, motivation, and often the energy to face the physical challenges that my MS brings.
Living with both these conditions simultaneously feels like being caught in a storm with no shelter in sight. The physical symptoms of MS often trigger my depressive episodes, and the melancholy, in turn, makes it harder to handle the physical discomfort. It’s a vicious cycle that can sometimes feel endless.
Being diagnosed with MS at a relatively young age (diagnosed at 28) has forced me to reassess my life and goals. Simple tasks that I once took for granted, like going for a run or even tidying up the house, have become significant challenges. The unpredictability of my MS symptoms has also made it difficult to maintain a regular work schedule, leading to a sense of loss and uncertainty about my future.
Depression adds another layer of complexity to the situation. The persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in things that I once enjoyed has significantly impacted my quality of life. It’s a silent struggle that is often hidden behind a forced smile or an “I’m fine” response to a well-meaning inquiry about how I’m doing.
Despite these challenges, I am not writing this letter to garner sympathy. Instead, I am hoping to raise awareness about the struggles that people like me face every day. I believe that understanding is the first step towards empathy, and empathy can make a world of difference to someone facing invisible battles.