My Lowest Multiple Sclerosis Moment

When I started this site in June, my mom was so excited that I’d be able to talk freely about my MS and have the opportunity to write about whatever I wanted. But at the same time she questioned whether I would mention an event that caused her a lot of emotional pain. I replied that if the need came up, I would then make the decision of whether to disclose. I think to best explain why I pursue joy I now must tell you where I found myself one day (in absolute hell) and how I returned…

More than two years ago I was unemployed (I was let go from a part-time, low-stress library job that I absolutely loved, due to excessive MS absences), I was in the midst of a bad attack, and my husband’s teaching contract wasn’t being renewed so he would also be unemployed at the end of the month. I would go on my own COBRA insurance, but my parents would have to pay the expensive monthly premiums because we were completely broke and accumulating more and more debt.

I felt so absolutely broken and emotionally out of control. I would cry for hours on end in the bathroom. I was constantly pacing around my house (reading a book,of course) and I couldn’t sit still because all I could worry about was money, my husband’s career, and my own health. The steroids (IV solumedrol with a prednisone taper) were making me completely sleepless and therefore very nutty and irrational. My neurologist was on vacation and I didn’t have a caring, steady primary care physician. I had started Lexapro (an antidepressant through my neurologist) about two weeks before, but I wasn’t feeling its full effects yet. I was also advised by him to get to a psychiatrist to be properly evaluated and diagnosed. Easier said than done, with long waits to get initial appointments. I scheduled the earliest appointment I could get (in 4 weeks) and hoped for the best.

One day I was especially sleepless, crazed, and angry. My mom came over with some groceries because I had not left the house in about two weeks. She was trying to get me to eat as I had lost about 15 pounds in the course of about three weeks. I was doing my crazy pacing around the house and I felt such a complete disconnection with the outside world. It was as though my family and friends were surrounding me and saying stuff like “cheer up”, but I could only hear hushed sounds and see vague images. Much like Sylvia Plath’sThe Bell Jar. Just background stuff outside of a very lonely, very sad cocoon.

My mom tried to cheer me up, but as people who have suffered from extreme anxiety and depression know, it’s more than a matter of changing attitude. Sometimes therapy and medication are needed. I wanted so desperately to feel emotionally better. So I revealed to my mom that I was afraid I was going to hurt myself. I finally crouched down crying on my living room floor and shouted repeatedly,”I need HELP! I need HELP, I need HELP!” My mom quickly got on the telephone and called my neurologist’s office, asking the receptionist about getting me to a psychiatrist. She said in a quivering voice, “Please help us: my daugher is having a crisis and I don’t know what to do.”

The empathetic receptionist told us to head to the ER at the hospital where my neurologist is affiliated (about 30 minutes from my home.) So we got in the car and went. I was brought to the psychiatric section and evaluated by their skeleton crew— at this point it was well into the evening. A social worker came in and spoke to me and an angelic psychiatric nurse drew some blood and fed me. I was given a script for an additional antidepressant– phoned in by the shrink on call– and viewed as functional enough to leave and go home. Before I left the hospital I went to the ladies’ room and to my horror I looked in the mirror and had the most complete moment of disconnection in my life: I absolutely did not recognize the face looking back at me. I had swollen, purple eyelids and deep dark circles under my eyes. And I was rail thin. I will never forget that moment when I realized that MS was winning. And I vowed then that I would never let myself get so low again, no matter what it took.

I’d like to say that I felt much better when I woke up the next day, but the new antidepressant actually made me JUMPIER. Relief finally came in the form of an anti-anxiety pill: Klonopin prescribed by one of my neurologist’s partners. I was able to get about 6 hours of sleep at night and the nuttiness died down. I got in to see a psychiatrist for a lengthy and thorough evaluation (about 2 weeks later– a new practice), the original Lexapro started to kick in, and I began speaking with a social worker about my anxiety. I still see this woman regularly, although I’ve changed psychiatrists due to my health insurance.

So this is why I am so adamant about grasping joy. I do what I can to keep from ever getting that low again. I will never let MS beat me, no matter what. And this is why I believe there is hope for everyone. There was hope for me at my lowest moment, and I am no different than you.

9 comments

  • Jen,

    This is a true story of MS Strength. Kudos to you and your Mom for not giving up and for not being complacent. I”m glad that you recognized the need for help and followed through with the suggestions made (ie meds, psychiatrist, ER, etc) even though some of them did not provide quick relief.

    I do believe that the anti-depressants (although they do have side-effects) do much more good than harm. Without them, I’d be in a deep hole. Even with them, I still sink down occasionally and sometimes the most insignificant things will get me started on that downward spin.

    I have great anxiety over the future – physical, mental, financial, social, emotional. And I have very little idea of what will come along. But choosing to be joyful, thankful, cheerful, helpful, and hopeful is all I can do.

    Here’s to grasping joy!!

    Lisa

  • This hit home. I, too, hit a low point, but the difference is I wasn’t dignosed with MS yet. I was so low I was contemplating suicide, but thank God I had the wit about me to call my therapist for help.

    Although depression and anxiety still get the best of me some days, I’ve never again hit that low point. And I made a promise to myself that it never will.

  • Jen

    Thanks for reading, guys. This was probably the hardest thing for me to confess, but I was inspired by Linda D’s recent revealing post about her symptoms and her fears. When writing this, I only got choked up at the part about my mom calling for help. I still feel some pain about upsetting her, but I’m so thankful that she was there. We’re quite close.

    I feel if this can help anyone realize that there’s a way back, then it’s worth it. It will probably be the most dreary thing I write, as I am doing quite well on Lexapro. I’m so thankful that there are antidepressants and I agree, Lisa, that the good they do far outweighs the bad. Why struggle?

    Here’s to good mental health!

  • wow…you are gonna make me cry here. this is such a great post because it is so real. everyone thinks that they are alone with this sort of thing and…there are many people who have gone through similar times but they don’t talk about it.

    frank was my savior though my bad time…he was a counselor on the end of a suicide hotline. So yeah…i can relate.

    i am so sorry you had to go through that but it has allowed you now…to help others because you know what it is like.

    thank you for writing this.

  • Jen

    Hi Merely Me–

    I felt compelled to write this because depression and anxiety run rampant with MSers. I can sit here and tell people to be strong and look on the bright side, but how can I say this when I have shown no knowledge of what it’s like to be at the very bottom of the well? So no matter how hard it is to write this, it is necessary to show others where I am coming from.

    I remember your post about that counselor who helped you. Social service workers/ nurses seem to be angels in disguise. I’m still contemplating taking psychology classes, maybe just for my own knowledge. I love science and medicine (I used to be an ultrasound tech, many moons ago…)

    I think your depression site helps many people feel understood. Keep writing those awesome articles!

    Jen

  • Wow! Wow! Wow! Thanks for sharing that story.

  • Jen

    You’re welcome! It’s obviously not my cheeriest, but it needs to be said. Hey– I sent you a message on Facebook. Can we drink red wine during chat next time?….

    Jen

  • Jen,

    Your strength shines through your vulnerability here…and yes. If your post helps another, then then difficulty in writing it has paid off.

    I, too, have had my share of “low” moments that I don’t blog about…mainly because of the type of work I do. I feel some constriction in writing those experiences because I KNOW people from work read my blog. So I GREATLY appreciate you taking the time, the moment, the memory, and the FEELING to write about your experience here. I DO believe it is in the darkness we discover ourselves…

    Thanks, wise woman.

    Linda D. in Seattle

  • Jen

    Hi Linda–

    I was inspired by you and your post about feelings that we try to hide. I have had MS for a while and a lot of my symptoms go back into remission or I just have become desensitized to them. Sometimes I forget how hard the first major attack was, so I draw on this horrible experience to remind myself that things can go wrong very quickly. But I don’t dwell and I’m thankful I’m doing fairly well after about 10 years with the stinkin’ disease.

    Yeah– it’s hard to know what to write about here that is useful but not TOO revealing, considering my family and friends know about this site. And I have a link to it from a website I write for. After this post, I can probably write about anything. Maybe pooping next…Hey— I can’t stay TOO serious!

    Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’re feeling a little bit better or at least functional.

    Jen

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