This month there have been a rash of suicides here in Portland. Once article I read said that the suicide rate in Portland is 30% over the national average. There has been a lot of local media attention to the subject and Saturday there was a suicide prevention walk going on where I was running. Recently my friend lost a friend to suicide. All of this has gotten me thinking about depression and suicide and how it relates to ms.
I am one of the lucky ones, I have never had to experience persistent depression in my own life. My family has a history of depression in it and my mother has always been concerned that I would succumb to its grip after I was diagnosed with ms. I can see how depression and ms can be related. The sense of futility associated with having a disease for which there is no cure is extremely frustration. Once diagnosed the only western approach to combating the disease is to commit to a lifetime of expensive medication that will only discourage the formation of new lesions. There are many many non-medicinal approaches from diet to exercise, all of which follow the path of what a healthy person should be doing. Which is also how many of the symptoms manifest – issues that we all can face through the process of aging (what is and what isn’t a symptom is one of my own personal questions I often ask.) I think this is a huge contributor to the increase in msers depression.
The good news is there is a lot we can do to combat the disease, to at the very least make us feel like we are doing something for ourselves. Even if these things don’t actually affect the disease they are good for us. For me my treatment other than rebif consists of a healthy dose of exercise through running. I often push myself to perform through hard, even extreme workouts. This gives me a huge mental boost through the personal accomplishment. I think this goes a long way towards helping me to realize that I am somewhat in control of this thing called ms. Granted I seem to have a relatively mild case of ms (even though my MRI showed multiple lesions) but the hard work tells my brain I can fight this thing.
There are other things to that I think have a positive mental effect (at least if not physical as well). I live by a pretty good vegetarian diet and at least attempt to eat healthy (I do realize there are mental benefits for eating chocolate bars and chips and not restricting myself 100%! Moderation is the key!) I do yoga and qigong as part of a regular stretching routine which has a hugely positive effect mentally and physically. I don’t spend hours deep in concentration either to experience the benefit. Often I’ll stretch while watching TV and am able to guide qi through my body at the same time too (though in front of the TV is supposed to be a terrible place to do qigong, my response to that is at least I am doing it. And I don’t have the bias of hating my TV top get in the way.) In my opinion doing something that you feel is positive in the fight reaps many rewards and supports personal progress (both against ms and for healthy living.) If you do something that you feel is positive in your life (from playing with your kids or animals to working in the garden to making music to…) then you are putting up walls against the further incursion of ms.
All of these “good things” we do against ms helps with preventing depression as well. I am sure much of msers’ depression manifest from a sense of not being able to do anything other than injecting ourselves. But we can take an effective stand against the disease and build positivity within our minds. Many times by doing things we enjoy anyway. Yes we can.