I want to preface this by saying my journey with mental health started before my journey with MS. I’ve always been quite a sensitive person, even as a child, and I think being so aware of how everyone else around me was feeling made me more aware of how I was feeling too. I remember always feeling anxious, or scared, or uncomfortable in situations that weren’t familiar to me, even though I’ve always come across as outspoken and confident on the outside!
When I was 14, I was misdiagnosed with ME/CFS. I was completely exhausted all the time, and could barely stay awake through most of my days. I had to fight for my doctor to take me seriously at all, so when he suggested this I jumped at it - it finally felt like an answer!
However, things didn’t get better - I was still constantly exhausted, I was getting stabbing headaches that nobody took seriously and I felt ill all of the time. It’s clear now what was happening to me, but at the time I genuinely convinced myself that I was just dramatic, or lazy, or one of the many other things I knew people thought about me. I ended up constantly feeling depressed or anxious, and it bled out into every area of my life. I felt completely out of control, so I completely focused on the things I could control. I essentially spent 10 years in survival mode, pushing from one day to the next, feeling terrible but eventually feeling like that was just normal.
Being finally diagnosed with MS at 24 has made me so acutely aware of my health journey, both physical and mental. I started really paying attention to how I was feeling, and how the anxiety, depression and control issues were taking over my life. I started paying attention to how factors would affect me, and how I would respond to negative things in my life. But noticing these things didn’t make them feel any better, if anything they got worse for a while.
I hated feeling different because of my diagnosis. I hated feeling like something was ‘wrong’ with me, and I spent a lot of time thinking that I had probably deserved it for some weird cosmic reason. I got more anxious, more depressed, more irritable, and my control issues got worse - I felt so out of control with so much in my life that I latched on to any little thing I could control, which led to checking behaviours and OCD symptoms that I still struggle with now.
It got to a point where I knew things needed to change. I’d accepted my diagnosis from a physical standpoint, but still couldn’t wrap my head around it from a mental aspect. I was sick of feeling like my life was controlled by negative feelings, so I took a stand - I got myself into therapy, started taking medication, and started journalling to help get thoughts out of my head and on to paper.
I’d love to end this by saying that I’m perfect and cured and everything is fantastic, but that just wouldn’t be true! However, I am taking every day as it comes and finding gratitude within my life. Taking my mental health more seriously has meant that I understand what my triggers are, what makes me feel better and worse, and has made me feel like I have some control over it rather than it completely controlling me. Now when I face a struggle in life I can handle it rather than having it take over, and I’m actually kind of grateful to my MS for that - it’s made me take myself seriously and shown me what I need to do to look after myself.
Mental health is a tricky topic to face, and it’s only made harder when you have something like MS compounding the issues. I really do believe that mental health is as important - if not more - than physical, and we need to look after ourselves mentally in order to give ourselves the best chance physically
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Hi! I’m Annabelle, a 25 year old marketer and MSer from the New Forest. When I’m not making pretty pictures for the internet or writing about my life you can find me reading, cooking, travelling or hanging out with my cat Goose. I’m all about showing people that MS is one part of my life, not the only part!