I was recently diagnosed with MS and have become very sad? depressed? and so reading about people that are excersizng and walking/yoga, etc. makes me feel even worse because I just don't have the energy to help myself. I tried calling a few therapists where I live but they are either not taking new patients or I have to wait forever. My family is getting frustrated with me. What should I do?
A recent diagnosis of MS is a common time to become depressed and anxious. There are so many things to consider and so many uncertainties about the future that life can seem overwhelming; often people around you are unable to appreciate the effects of many early symptoms and this may affect your relationships. Finding help early is extremely important, but often difficult. The first thing is to make sure your primary care doctor and MS specialist are aware of how you are feeling. They may refer you to a specific therapist or to a local MS advocacy group. Contact an MS organization for help including the MS Association of America (MSAA), the National MS Society (NMSS) and the MS Foundation. Depending on where you live at least one of these groups should be able to provide a recommendation. In the interim there are certain things you can do to help yourself:
- If you do not have the energy to exercise at present at least change your routine and get out of the house on a regular basis and go for short walks; talk to your physician about any barriers you must surmount to start an exercise program and do not impose barriers. There are many treatable reasons for feeling too tired to exercise such as excessive daytime sleepiness. You may do better with a supervised program or a group program. The important thing is to find a way to exercise.
- Start journaling your feelings and use the journal to jot down negative thoughts.
- Talk with those closest to you about how you are feeling, but not just family members, especially if your experience is overwhelming them. You may be able to find a newly diagnosed MS support group to help in this regard.
- Reconsider what is most important in your life and reconnect with this activity or relationship.
- Consider what creates the most stress and anxiety in your life and consider ways to minimize this stress; this is a good time to simplify you life and focus on the important things. Since our lives are complicated with many consequences to our decisions this may be an area where a therapist will be helpful.
- Make sure you continue to socialize in supportive groups on a regular basis (at least weekly). Resist the urge to withdrawal and stay in your house all day.
- Eat well and avoid self medicating with alcohol or other drugs not prescribed.
- Do not be opposed to medication for depression if this is recommended by your physicians but remember that a medication is only part of the answer. You will still need to find a way to exercise and work on the other items mentioned previously.
Rip Kinkel MD