Depression, MS, and Dementia


I have decided I am definitely depressed. It has been creeping up on me. Obviously there was the initial shock and grief with the diagnosis. But as my symptoms started to fade, I found myself entering denial with an even heavier distraction. At the same time as my exacerbation hit, my mother was finally admitted to a nursing home. My mother is only 56, but her dementia has taken a steep slide downward over the past 3 years.

My mother has not been around for the last 10 years. She shacked up with an shitty boyfriend (her choice) and has not been involved in my life or my children’s. When my parents divorced she checked out from her mom duties. My siblings were sent to an aunts house temporarily and then reunited with my dad. Meanwhile I somehow ended up as my mothers wingman during her midlife crisis/downward spiral. I was the oldest, and due to my mothers disabilities (she is legally blind and deaf), and being raised in a Muslim household, I always felt an immense responsibility towards her. While she had abandoned me and chosen boyfriends first throughout my teens and twenties, I still feel responsible for her quality of life. Which brings us to her current situation. She was dropped off at the nursing home with raggedy clothes and a tooth missing. The minute my MS symptoms subsided I was buying her clothes, toiletries, and scheduling doctors appointments to ‘catch up’ for the last 15 years. Every week for about 2 months I was bringing her to different doctor appointments. The last time I brought her back, the nurses at the facility gave me some what of an epiphany. I had finally figured out how to pay for her tooth implant and had scheduled a visit to see if they would be able to extract the root. Two of the nurses looked at me, “She doesn’t need that, You really gonna put her through that? That’s a serious visit! She never complains about her tooth and she doesn’t have a problem eating.” I started to question myself, was this missing tooth bothering me more than my mother? My mother eats well, she also talks to mirrors, and plays with a baby doll. She definitely doesn’t care about her tooth. Is this tooth purely cosmetic? Am I wasting her last years dragging her to the dentist so she doesn’t look like she’s homeless? Should I just be spending time with her? On the one hand the tooth could get infected and she is only 56, on the other hand she has deteriorated rapidly over the last three years from being moody and confused to a shell of her former self. She has trouble communicating and she cant hear. I usually just end up smiling at her. I don’t know if she knows who I am but I’m sure deep down I hope she can sense that I am one of her children and maybe my presence is giving her some subconscious comfort.

After that last visit I decided to give myself a break. I had felt better and went right back to not taking care of myself. I never thought of myself as someone who puts others needs before mine, but here I was running myself ragged when I should have been educating myself on my new found disease. Like I said the depression was creeping up on me, but not in a stereotypical way. I wasn’t laying on the couch in the dark crying. But I did find myself losing interest in things I normally enjoyed like cooking and going outside. Consequently eating healthy and sunshine are pretty much essential to fighting MS. I was eating more junky food and moving less, all in my preoccupation to “bring my mother back to life” now that I had access to her. It was a fruitless endeavor. So I began to pick up my MS books and read, which made me more depressed. Reading statistics about the average age I will become disabled and die was not exactly uplifting. Then I started to read about lifestyle changes, things I could do to help relieve my symptoms. I stumbled upon a book, via Instagram actually, called Overcoming MS. The author advocates a vegan + fish diet along with regular exercise. No saturated fat, no dairy, no meat. And now I am depressed again. Now I feel like everything is going to poison me and I have to think twice about every meal. I am not discounting this diet I have started following it. But its just frustrating to be thrust into this with such abruptness and urgency. I don’t go to the gym, I am naturally skinny but I am joining one this week. I am trying to be positive about it since it is a break from the kids and I’m not trying to lose weight, I just need to move for an hour, and I can watch TV while I’m doing it. Its just overwhelming to have all the information and know that these are necessary, long term, permanent lifestyle changes that I was planning on putting off until I was “older”. I’m almost 33 but I was waiting until some slowed metabolism or something, not a disabling neurological disorder.

I have been seeking out a therapist on and off to deal with all of these sudden life changes that remind me of my own fatality; multiple sclerosis and dementia, but most offices either don’t accept insurance or don’t call back. My sister is a vitamin guru so she has recommended Theanine and 5HTP, both good for mood, relaxation, and reducing anxiety and depression. Although with all the data on MS I am always nervous to take any vitamins. A lot of the literature on MS deters from regular multi-vitamins and warns against antioxidants and other immune stimulating vitamins as MS is an autoimmune disease where the immune system is already overactive and increasing it could be harmful. I do take vitamins; B12, D3, D2, Ginkgo Biloba, and L-Argenine, but I try not to take them all everyday or I mix them up. I have also finally explored the National MS Society website and found an abundance of resources including support groups in my area.

Being depressed is like having your light dimmed. Its feels like its a beautiful summer beach day and somehow you are sick with the flu. You wish you could enjoy it but the thought of going outside into the light is overwhelming. Its a loss of enthusiasm for life. I love my children and I still put on a smile and engage but the minute I am alone I find myself crying to the first cheesy pop song that comes on the radio. Not everyday is bad, and usually after I have a bad day there are good days to follow. I’m hoping the vitamins, my new diet, and my new gym habit will help stabilize my mood. I always have writing.