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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Monster in the Mirror

Sometimes, a monster shows itself when I'm least expecting it.

A snarling, growling, terrifying creature that I do not recognize. A facet of my soul that I would rather not accept as being a part of me. Yet, it is. This unrecognizable ghoul is not some character from a horror movie, not a stranger lurking outside, not a predator stalking me. This creature sits with me, right in my own home, and it is fed by my anger.

Photo credit: Monsters.net

Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful life! I have 6 healthy kids, a husband who loves me, and an amazing support system. Now and then though, my resident monster makes an appearance. Usually when I'm least expecting it.

This anger is a product of a life full of stress and responsibility, parenthood, and multiple sclerosis. Mood disturbances are a rarely discussed common symptom of MS.
Mood disturbances are not something many people like to discuss. We like to think of it as something to be afraid of, ashamed of, and hidden away. My feeling is: If I share my own experiences with anger, frustration, anxiety, and sadness, maybe someone in my shoes won't feel so alone.

Many studies (but not enough) have been done on the mood disorders most common with MS. A Neurologic study noted: "Emotional disturbances are common in MS and consist of disturbances of mood and disturbances of affect. The important mood disorders are major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Their relationship to MS is multi-factorial and complex, and the extent to which they are direct consequences of the disease process or psychological reactions to it remains unclear. Whatever their cause, however, the symptoms of mood disorders in people with MS are no different from the symptoms of mood disorders in people without MS, and respond just as well to standard treatments. The disorders of affect are euphoria, pathological laughing and weeping, and other frontal lobe syndromes. These disorders result from demyelination, are some of the most characteristic symptoms of MS, and have the same implications for treatment as do other aspects of the disease. Mood and affective disturbances can cause enormous pain and suffering and lead to significant disruption of family, work, and social life. Physicians who can identify, diagnose, treat, and manage mood and affective disturbances effectively and who can help their patients and family members acknowledge these difficulties, talk about them, and accept psychiatric consultation and treatment can have a dramatic impact on the quality of their lives. This paper outlines the symptoms and diagnostic criteria for mood disorders and affective disturbances, reviews current treatment options, summarizes data from epidemiologic and pathophysiological studies, and suggests areas for future research" (Journal of Neurovirology, 2000.)

That may sound like a bunch of medical jargon to some readers, but in essence the conclusion is that these mood issues result directly from demyelination, or damage to myelin sheath with MS. Many patients will find this reassuring, because so often we think of psychological distress as "crazy" or "disturbed." There is a stigma in our society, and it needs to end.

Have you felt this way? Have you felt alone with your symptoms of anger and sadness? I am here to tell you that you are anything but alone. The best therapy is to share! If you are concerned about being judged, find a forum that you feel comfortable with. Share anonymously, if you need to....but share. Talk. Exchange ideas. Keep the information flowing, and you just might be able to help another person suffering from similar issues.

© Meagan Freeman, 2014 Motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com

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