The Emotional Roller Coaster of Managing Emotions with MS

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Managing Emotions with MS

Patiently Awakened
I am an emotional, sensitive woman. I like to believe that I have a warm heart in a very cold world. Isn’t this what the world needs? Love, warmth, acceptance and transparency?

Recently I find that my emotions change within a millisecond. So, instead of being sensitive, I am “super sensitive.” I am easily offended, and I also can be the one who offends another. I cry more often. These emotional highs and lows are exhausting. If I had to describe it, my emotions are entangled, like spaghetti. A millisecond is defined as one thousandth of a second. With this definition in mind, it is safe to say that my description of my emotions may be a little exaggerated, yet I want to ensure that I paint a clear picture.

I can proceed from a state of happiness, to anger and even despair within moments. We each have different temperaments and reactions. I am finding that my patience at times can diminish quickly. This, of course, places me in a quandary, as I am on a quest to transform into a peaceful, grateful, “patiently awakened” individual.

I have spoken to others who battle chronic illness. Changes in emotions seem to be a common denominator among us. I sometimes feel as if I am on the verge of an emotional breakdown. It’s as if my emotions lead me to the apex of intolerance, yet there is something that prevents me from losing it completely. If you can imagine this, or if you’ve been here, this is extremely difficult to admit – and even more toilsome to discuss.

Healthline published an article written by Jeri Burtchell and Ana Gotter titled “Understanding and Managing Multiple Sclerosis Mood Swings.” In the overview the writers described the same emotions I mentioned and often experience. “You may be happy one minute and angry the next … these are examples of mood swings, which are common in some people with multiple sclerosis (MS).”

The article goes on to state that “mood swings are a common symptom of MS. But the connection between the disease and emotions often goes unrecognized. It’s easy to see many of the physical effects of MS, such as problems with balance, walking or tremors. In comparison, the emotional impact of the disease is less visible from the outside.”

The article resonated with me for several reasons. First, it reiterated that I am not alone in my struggle. Second, most of my symptoms at this point in my disease are not really visible. I suffer from extreme fatigue, severe pain, restlessness, anxiety and additional things that others cannot see. I have been told I hide it well. Living with invisible illness is complex and vexatious. We often are “betrayed and reduced” by the “you look fine” syndrome, which we know fails to encompass and respect our entire situation. We are always fighting a battle.

It is ironic that our emotional outbursts and mood swings often are taken out on those we love the most, or those who are the closest to us. They see what the public cannot envision. They witness our emotional struggles in real time and they, too, are affected. I am sometimes guilty of this behavior and after my outbursts I experience remorse.

At times I regret something that I may have said in anger and I feel powerless as my reactions subjugate my reasoning. If you haven’t realized yet, I am having a moment where I feel completely exposed. I often say there is power in vulnerability, and someone needs to hear that they, too, are not alone.

Yes, I am positive and optimistic most of the time and I sincerely appreciate my life. However, I am made of flesh and in my humanness lies imperfection, anxiety, fear and, of course, strength. Having MS and chronic illness is a difficult walk. I could have or would have never imagined this; nonetheless I am here, and this is my reality. This roller coaster of emotions is a ride that I do not enjoy. I have to sit with myself and ride this out. I can hope only that these mood swings will quell and, with proper assistance, I will better manage my emotions that come with the disease.

“Understanding and Managing Multiple Sclerosis Mood Swings” discusses methods of managing and coping with these myriad emotions. “The first step in taming your MS related mood swings is speaking with your doctor.” They go on to suggest steps we can take to help control our moods such as getting support from others and things we can do on our own.

In conclusion, most of us will experience mood swings and intense emotional changes. Again, we are not alone. We have multiple resources and we have each other. Please remember that we are worth fighting for.

“I am the face of a survivor, I am all of my pain and glory.
Not always picture perfect, Yet I am alive to tell my story.
(— from “A Survivor’s Anthem” © Teresa I. Wright-Johnson)

You are invited to subscribe to my website at www.teresawrightjohnson.com

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Teresa I. Wright-Johnson is a married Multiple Sclerosis Warrior and Congenital Heart Disease Survivor. She was born with a heart murmur and an Aortic Valve Defect. Teresa has endured multiple open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures. She was diagnosed with MS in November of 2014 and is under the care of an esteemed MS Specialist. Teresa knows there is a calling on her life and she fully embraces that. Teresa uses her illnesses as opportunities to further rely on her faith, walk in her truth, raise awareness and educate others. She believes that she is purposely on purpose. Teresa offers a solid background in Criminal Justice and Social Services. A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and a retired Sr. Parole Officer for the State of New Jersey, Teresa uses her life to empower and inspire others. She embodies community service, is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc and is active with several other organizations. Teresa aspires to be a light that shines in dark places. Teresa is an author, poet, inspirational speaker and a community activist. She enjoys writing, reading, listening to music and spending time with her family and friends. Teresa acknowledges the unwavering love of her wonderful parents throughout her life and her supportive and loving husband Marvin who is beside her through every trial and triumph.
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Teresa I. Wright-Johnson is a married Multiple Sclerosis Warrior and Congenital Heart Disease Survivor. She was born with a heart murmur and an Aortic Valve Defect. Teresa has endured multiple open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures. She was diagnosed with MS in November of 2014 and is under the care of an esteemed MS Specialist. Teresa knows there is a calling on her life and she fully embraces that. Teresa uses her illnesses as opportunities to further rely on her faith, walk in her truth, raise awareness and educate others. She believes that she is purposely on purpose. Teresa offers a solid background in Criminal Justice and Social Services. A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and a retired Sr. Parole Officer for the State of New Jersey, Teresa uses her life to empower and inspire others. She embodies community service, is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc and is active with several other organizations. Teresa aspires to be a light that shines in dark places. Teresa is an author, poet, inspirational speaker and a community activist. She enjoys writing, reading, listening to music and spending time with her family and friends. Teresa acknowledges the unwavering love of her wonderful parents throughout her life and her supportive and loving husband Marvin who is beside her through every trial and triumph.

24 comments

  1. Anita says:

    I too have noticed mood swings. It’s been 2 years since diagnosed with PPMS. I get this way when I am fatigued. For example, after I get up, I walk the dog, clean the litter boxes, makes the beds. When I come back, my spouse who is making coffee and breakfast, could say something to set me off and I will react in anger. Why? I am hot and fatigued. I have absolutely no patience or tolerance for anything at that point. So I had a conversation this am and pointed that out. For me, I have to manage my tasks and take mini breaks in between. Step 2, is awareness. Anyway, one day at a time! God bless you all!

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Anita,
      Thank you for sharing. Yes, I notice that it is fatigue, stress or pain that can trigger certain reactions. I totally agree that we have to manage tasks and rest when we must. These emotional reactions happen to most of us and when we are aware, as you stated, we can address the issue. Taking things one day at a time is key. God Bless you too!

  2. Patrick A Fontenello says:

    In addition to my SPMS (diagnosed initially 2010 as RRMS) I live with bipolar disorder. That is not an ideal situation, obviously. I already have an organic mood disorder wreaking havoc. The bipolar was well controlled on my simple regimen of prescribed medication and healthful living. Then came multiple sclerosis into the fray. The first two to three years of the M.S., the mood disorder stayed well controlled. At about year number three after three exacerbations in a row, six months between each wave, the M.S. really ‘took off’ in a more southerly direction. This was when the mood swings began in earnest. Since that time, about four years ago, it has been a real struggle at times to keep my head above water. So, no real point to make, other than…
    I feel ya’ Just breathe in, breathe out, sometimes that’s enough, but it’s never too much.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Patrick,
      Thanks for sharing your story. Continue to look ahead and keep your head above water. Thanks for the encouraging reminder to “just breathe.” You are right, it is never too much and it gets us to the next moment. Best wishes to you.

  3. Sue Jones says:

    Thank you for this article, allowing me to know that maybe I’m not loosing it, or that everybody in my world bar just a few think they know how this feels. Never been an angry person, now it figures in my life, I have become quick to both anger and impatience.
    I have lived on my emotions, but used these as a positive way of being. Now they are a mishmash on an hourly basis.
    I try to look well and appear as usual…. the life of the party, but this leaves me so fatigued and angry that people are relieved not to have to look past the fasard.
    Thank you

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Sue,
      You’re welcome. Thank you for sharing your story. No, you aren’t alone. Many of us have these experiences with intense emotions. They are challenging, yet there are resources available to assist us when needed. It helps to know that others have similar experience and that was the basis for writing this column. If needed, don’t be afraid to seek help and try to remember that this too shall pass. Thank you again and continue to fight.

  4. Jim Donaldson says:

    Thank you for describing this serious and complicated issue so eloquently and thoroughly.
    I have had MS for over 30 years and suffered almost exactly the same problems as you. Indecision and anxiety were also present for most of the time. I am surprised and thankful I still have friends and relatives who talk to me(although some don’t).
    Your article has arrived at the most opportune time as my recently diagnosed nephew, only 27 yrs old, has really been struggling with all these emotional and mental issues. I have been finding it difficult to convince him he is neither mad nor alone but once he reads your article I think he will now believe me.

    Thank you again

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Jim,
      Thank you for sharing your story. It is my hope that sharing my experience will comfort others as well as empower them. Friends and family are important and at times, we unknowingly push them away. Managing illness is difficult for all involved. Best of luck to your nephew and I hope that he finds something in this column to let him know that there is hope and help available and that many others share his plight. He is never alone. Peace, blessings and best wishes to both of you. Thanks again.

  5. Dana says:

    Teresa,
    Thank you for your honesty and for writing this. It has made me rethink how I perceive everything. It’s easy to feel “justified” in lashing out to those i love because after all, I am suffering with many issues and difficult things that plague me daily. It is a struggle that only God can get me through. However, after reading your article, I have realized that some of my very quick frustration, anger, and even despair are part of the effects of brain damage that MS has inflicted upon me. With this new perspective I can now appreciate the need to learn new methods to try to regain more control of my emotions. With MS, it seems daunting that I could change anything significantly that MS seems to have altered forever. But, with Jesus Christ, all things are possible. This is one thing that MS can never take. Thank you.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Dana,
      You’re welcome and thank you for sharing. You are correct, our illness does not give us a “pass” to mistreat others. I believe there is power in acknowledgment. Most of our family and friends can overlook our behavior, as they know we are struggling. I try to remember that just as I have feelings, others do too. Yes,I agree that God gets me through many things. I also know that I must help myself when possible. Keep the faith, and I share your sentiment that MS cannot take away our hope and it cannot separate us from the love of God. Continue to fight and believe, because, as you said, with God all things are possible. Bless You.

  6. Inge says:

    hi, your story has been very welcome, says this invisible MS person.its so recognizable,my way of dealing with it: a patient notebook where i tell my stories and ups and downs .never argues and your head gets empty.
    keep on writing!take care.Inge.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Inge,
      Thank you for the encouragement. I appreciate it. Writing is therapeutic, helping us and others. So continue to write your truth and I will do the same. Best wishes to you and thanks again.

  7. Rashmi says:

    Thank you… You just put in words what l actually go through.Its so frustrating….lt helps to know thst l am not alone.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Rashmi,
      Thank you for reading the column and for your expression. You are not alone. There are many of us. Keep your head up, stay hopeful and all the best to you. Take care.

  8. Cheryl says:

    I am glad I read your article , it is so much like me. One thing I was doing a lot was saying things to people And affending them and I wasn’t meaning to. I since learned to let others speak first and then judge wether to say anything at All . Sometimes it’s not worth all I was going through. I find peace in letting others dig their own holes. But that hasn’t stopped all the loneliness that I feel especially from the people closes to me. The don’t call anymore or want to spend time with me. I guess I’m to slow or not as articulate I don’t know. You know how we lose our place in thought. I seem to keep my family in that spaghetti turmoil, I think my husband is the only one who truly understands all the mental and physical sufferings I have and he never pushes me or makes me feel quilts.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for sharing your feelings. First I would like to tell you to be encouraged. Although we have moments of loneliness, we are never really alone. There are so many of us who go through the same experiences. I’m thankful that you have great support and understanding in your husband. I admire your strength. Keep fighting. Blessings to you.

  9. Karen says:

    Thank you for this article. I too find I am supersensitive and easily offended. I cry easily and am sometimes quick to anger and get frustrated when I can’t do something or am doing too much and feeling hot! Really helps to know that I am not alone.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Glad I found this article. I was diagnosed May 2018, but have had MS symptoms for years. I’ve noticed in the past year that I seem to get very emotional, in other words crying over things I have no control over, and I also get angry and impatient very easy as well. It’s nice to know that there are a lot of us experiencing the same emotional issues. I don’t want to take any more meds, so I’d just rather get through these emotional episodes as they occur. No we are not alone, and as someone mentioned, we can do all things through Christ you gives us strength and he is always with us.

  11. Patti Brown says:

    This is a very helpful article. I am the spouse (32 years) and caregiver of someone with MS whose emotional unpredictability (intense, hairtrigger rages) has me almost at the breaking point. Did not realize the MS connection. The knowledge helps, in and of itself, but when words become weapons that are harsh to the point of cruel and cruel to the point of abuse, it is hard as the recipient not to be wounded past the ability to recover even when you realize “it’s not personal”…

  12. Ann says:

    My spouse with MS is angry and mean everytime I disagree with him on a matter.

    He also keeps a record of all my wrongs that he rattles off to whomever will listen when he’s in that stste of mind (and its a REAL betrayal).

    I grew up with a verbally abusive dad who he acts just like.

    I am not sure I can live with him anymore. I have cancer and can not handle the drama and stress.

    He is NOTHING like the man I fell in love with (who was patient and kind) and I fell in love with him when he had MS! Makes me think he DOES have some control over his awful temperment, he just chooses to UNLEASH on me.

    Im not sure I can take much more. Its abuse really.

    • Frankie says:

      I’m going through the same thing. I asked him if he can control his abusive outbursts and he said he could but still blames it on the illness. I can’t take much more

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