I keep thinking I am done talking about the symptoms of MS and then the Lord suggests something else…depression—which is a hazard for most chronic conditions.
Depression in my case was not directly caused by MS—it has nothing to do physically with the de-myelination of the nerves that are directly responsible for mood. In my situation it was a kind of secondary problem—it had everything to do with the chemical imbalance of my body from pushing too far by will power and made worse by my emotional response to circumstances over which I had no control.
After “the event” your body no longer functions as it once did. You suddenly find yourself unable to do things you did with ease, hardly a second thought. For me it was simple housekeeping things like:
dusting and taking care of house plants
picking up around the house (bending over is not advised because of loss of balance which could lead to a fall, a torn up knee or broken bone)
menu planning and cooking
Because the body won’t put out anymore, you can’t prepare or deliver lessons or keep up with the students youthful bodies—there goes your career.
With the lack of mobility your body starts looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Who, what am I now? What value or worth do I have? Every single referent that I looked to to tell me who I was was gone in a matter of a few weeks. Life as I knew it was over. What’s not to be depressed about?
You have to give up your independence (the car keys) so you can’t take yourself to even see a friend or go to a church meeting for spiritual and emotional nurture. You can no longer meet your own needs. Frustrating beyond words.
The avenues of nurture dry up. Any movement requires excessive amounts of energy. Motivation? Forget about it—it is non existent. The body chemistry goes out of whack and depression creeps in…but you are unaware.
Add to that the high sensitivity which you cannot turn off so you still sense people’s pain around you–and life becomes very difficult to bear. The retirement benefits of Heaven start to look really good.
The first time I was consciously aware that I was depressed, I remember standing at the sink feeling this bone grinding exhaustion while washing and preparing vegetables for dinner. I was planning for the care of our two children after I died.
I was not going to commit suicide but I was not going to fight death when it came. I could sense my spirit was almost gone. I knew when it went my body would soon shut down so with what little I had I wanted to make sure my kids would be loved and cared for. That was before I knew I was battling MS.
The Lord intervened twice, picked me up and carried me out of that desperate place. He fought for me. I could see the tunnel I was in. I knew there was no light in it this side of heaven. That was my reality. I was emotionally flat. Without God’s direct intervention I don’t think I would be here to tell you this.
For a time I was on anti-depressants to take the edge off and to stabilize the body chemistry. Doctors can be one of those resources we are to use when needed.
The second time depression visited my house was after the second attack. I knew the attack was spiritually motivated so I did fight but I had so little endurance…so little motivation… But again Jesus fought for me and in the places of greatest darkness He revealed Himself. When God does that things change.
I want you to know that strong people become depressed; especially when they give and give until there is nothing left to give and then by the sheer force of will, they give beyond their design capacity. That throws the body chemistry out of whack.
I also want you to know that depression creeps in incrementally so you don’t notice it coming. It is usually someone else who points it out and I hope they do it gently.
If you reach out to Jesus in the darkness He will answer and begin to slowly turn on the lights, but slowly so your eyes will not hurt. Then He will begin to teach you about Himself, slowly because the brain doesn’t work real fast anymore. He knows you and will meet you in a way that is appropriate for you.
I am so thankful for the story of Elijah in I Kings chapter 18-l9. After he defeated the prophets of Baal, Elijah outran the chariots coming down the mountain—he was bookin’ it! He expended everything he had—all his energy spiritually, emotionally and physically. There was nothing left, so when Jezebel started hunting for him to kill him he ran for his life and hid—and asked God to let him die.
I totally get that. But look at God’s response. He didn’t get mad at him, make demands of him or shame him. He didn’t call him names. He sent angels to feed him; gave him water and let him sleep. After he had rested for a couple days and nights God told him to start walking—just put one foot in front of the other. This took him 40 days. When Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb the Lord met him.
Again, the Lord did not yell at him or tell him he didn’t have enough faith; he didn’t tell him to buck up. He did point out that there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal; He let Elijah know he was not the only one. That was how he felt, in a way He acknowledged Elijah’s feelings, but there was no other correction. God agreed with Elijah’s evaluation that Israel was in sin and gave instructions for who would come alongside to help. God did not want him to fight this battle alone. He doesn’t want you to be alone either. I encourage you to let God pick people to send to you, and don’t turn them away.
A Possible Next Step: Eat some healthy food. Sleep. Do a little mindless exercise (walk around the block or take a short bike ride) and then slowly start to rebuild joy.