Living with multiple sclerosis, depression and how to not give up fighting to live
Contribution by Dawn Felicetta
My name is Dawn Felicetta and I’m a 39 year old mother of 3 children who are my strength. For someone who smiles all the time, this is thr part of my disease that i have never shared publicly. I hope this inspires you just as it did for me to write it.
My name is Dawn and I have Multiple sclerosis. A disease that has no cure, no discrimination, no known orientation and has many symptoms. One symptom that has been my biggest struggle is depression.
Having a disease with so many unknowns creates a merry-go-round of emotions. One thing we do know however, is that MS and depression have a direct link with one another. This disease destroys the protective coating around the nerves in the brain and has been proven to cause mood changes. Many of the treatments and prescriptions used to fight MS also add to the possibility of creating depression as a side effect within the patient. I am this patient.
I feel very vulnerable and conflicted writing this blog. Depression has such a negative aura and it’s not who I am. It makes me feel afraid to expose my depression because I do not want to be labeled as weak. At times I feel so alone. Feelings of hopelessness settle in as I battle my own inner judgments. I feel brittle, broken, distraught, needy and in total despair. I find myself in crisis as my mind becomes the devil’s playground.
My crisis started very early in my diagnosis. I became very detached, irrational, irritable and completely overwhelmed. The daily struggle of pain, fatigue, medication and knowing there is no cure for my disease, lead me into a total mental breakdown. I cried behind closed doors in the darkness. I found myself at the brink of death as thoughts of suicide became solutions and not problems. Things began to fall apart around me. I just took each loss as it came until the only thing left to lose was my children. It was at this point, I finally realized I needed to save myself. How do you love yourself when you don’t know how?
Looking into my children’s eyes and seeing their deep love for me sparked a fire inside. I began seeking outside help and quickly realized that I needed to save myself. The answers were inside me and so my spiritual journey began. Each day I would try something new, desperate for growth. For one year straight I would wake up just before sunrise, sit on my front porch and drink my coffee. Watching the sun swallow up the darkness became very symbolic to me. It represented that life goes on and darkness is never permanent. I began to add things each day like soft music which led me to meditation. It was not an easy technique to learn but I knew a peaceful mind and body was the best thing I could do for my disease. Soon I found myself taking walks around the neighborhood and even allowing friends to come visit. I began celebrating the things I am capable of and somehow just forgot. I knew my disease would create limitations so I began to adapt. With the help of my doctors I learned to modify situations to suit my disease. Aware that life is stressful, I began to pick and choose my battles.
When dealing with MS and depression, it was vital to learn that my mental and physical health must be a priority. I have become more aware of things that affect my disease – like the weather. Spring and fall are less stressful on my body, while winter and summer temperatures have a high impact on me and those with this disease. It is during these times that my limitations become greater and my risk for a depression relapse increases. I no longer allow people to dictate my disease. I no longer get frustrated when someone tells me I don’t look sick. I am a woman with a goal and want to live my life to the fullest potential allowed. I try to live a more happy and healthy life.
I listen to my body and accept my limitations. I no longer feel bad when I just can’t do something. I accept that this is my journey and it will require me to continue to fight to live my life on a more positive level.
I joined ChangeMS which is a foundation that helps bring awareness about this disease and its symptomology to the public. ChangeMS has been a blessing. While writing this I dealt with fears of being viewed as weak and inadequate. Surprisingly I found strength and growth. I chose to share this story so that others may be encouraged to speak freely of their depression. I share so that we can erase the negative aura that surrounds depression.
This is my truth and I will not be ashamed by it. I am one of the faces of Multiple Sclerosis, the face of depression and the face of a fighter. Please join me and speak freely and loudly about your experience. Let us fight together so the loneliness and darkness become acceptance and light. This is just part of my story. I am not naïve to believe the fight is over. I know I will always need to adapt and grow as my disease changes me. I have found a strong support and encouragement in the ChangeMS foundation. I am no longer alone and you should not be either.
I am Dawn, I have MS and depression but I will continue to fight and never give up.