It’s been a mad busy month or so.
Between traveling with my wife, Caryn, to a few of her conferences (one in Dublin, the other in Miami), family visits (for both of us), getting the house ready for a long-term guest who is in need, and attending to a series of introductory “roadshow” programs for an (non-MS) organization I helped to found, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. And said candle was pretty short to begin with.
At one point in the past few days, I feel like it all caught up with me. Not in a typical MS-type physical way. Rather, I experienced a wave of anxiety and dread wash over me like I haven’t felt in years … decades, even.
Depression, Anxiety, and MS
Like so many others with multiple sclerosis, I have experienced symptoms of clinical depression off and on over the course of my life with MS. It’s nothing for any of us to be ashamed of admitting. While not a direct symptom of MS, depression is generally accepted as a common comorbidity for those of us living with the disease.
But this wasn’t like any of the symptoms I had experienced before. That said, it is again not uncommon for people with MS to deal with anxiety.
According to Johns Hopkins, approximately half of people who have MS and depression also experience anxiety.
But anxiety can also occur independently without depression. “Anxiety disorders are three times more common in MS than in the general population. Anxiety has been linked to decreased social interaction, increased risk of excessive alcohol use, increased levels of pain and may even impact cognitive skills such as how fast your brain processes information,” per the Hopkins website.
How I Dealt With a Wave of Anxiety
But what to do when this not uncommon MS associate comes calling?
I suppose I used a tactic that has served me well (enough) over the years with so many other MS symptoms: I just sat with it.
My old self — the one that believed in the illusion of control — would have jumped in to “fix” the situation. I would have been digging for the source, researching foods that may have triggered the episode, or haranguing myself for even feeling that way.
Old Trevis wasn’t a lot of fun when it came to the living part of life with MS.
This time, rather than deepen my anxiety by trying to solve it like some type of medical jigsaw puzzle, I just experienced it. All of it.
The episode wasn’t as long or severe as some I have heard of. Still, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
I Noticed Without Judging or Trying to Change
I wrapped up what I was doing (as best I could), found a quiet place (with our dog, Maggie, at my side), and I just sat there with the whole thing. It was sort of like a yoga practice, whereby I didn’t try to examine or judge what I was feeling. I just noticed the feelings. I acknowledged but did not give power to them.
I did not go down the paths the experience tried to force me down. I simply saw the open doors and decided not to enter. I understood that I wouldn’t feel like this forever, but if I did, I knew there were ways to combat it with the help of others.
It’s the way that I have come to understand is the best way to cope with new (or worsening) physical MS symptoms. I just experience them. I try to understand the feeling of them. I try on the suit that I hope I won’t have to wear for long. Then, after I have understood it for all that it has revealed to me, I move on in hopes that it will pass.
If it does, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t and I will deal with that part, hopefully a little better than Old Trevis did.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.