‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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I started out in my professional life as a journalist. This only lasted about eight years and feels like a lifetime ago — which it was. Though I was not a news hound, I learned to smell a story. Last week’s column, “A Tale of Two Halves,” juxtaposed bad MS news with the joys of my country, England, actually playing well in the World Cup. A big change!

It led to correspondence about suicide, initiated by referring to currently living in my bedroom like some kind of cell. Plans are being put in place to rectify this, but it takes time. In the meantime, I’m doing time.

According to the U.K.’s National MS Society, “Depression in its various forms is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In fact, studies have suggested that clinical depression—the most severe form—is more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or in many other chronic illnesses.”

I am in no way depressed, though I have every right to be. Perhaps, rather ironically, in my 20s, I did suffer from a bout of clinical depression brought on by too many shocks at once. The death of my dad, dealing with an intensely narcissistic mother, the collapse of a relationship, a career in meltdown. And bizarrely, one of my closest friends drunkenly falling out of a train. I think there was probably more, but them’s the highlights. I now know what the early signs of depression are and would immediately seek medical attention. Somehow, having been previously mentally ill seems to have inured me — for now, at least.

Share your own tips on how to always look at the bright side of life with MS in our FORUMS!

Pragmatically, I’ve talked about future suicide with my wife and neurologist. I’ve even managed to do it at the same time! My neurologist, two consultations ago, brought up the possibility of stem cell treatment. It won’t work for me, which was the bad news in last week’s column. He was in a quandary, as a patient had just died undertaking it, as there’s a 2 percent mortality risk. He was surprised I wasn’t worried. I would risk anything to halt the decline into complete immobility. I’ve experienced it for a month after my first infusions of Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). We all have our personal limits. That’s mine.

I’ve seriously joked about going to the suicide clinic Dignitas in Switzerland for years. Undoubtedly, I’ve mentioned it in passing (fitting) in my column. I figure that a wake, seeing as I’m paying for it, I might as well attend. With me wearing a self-designed “Kill-Me-Quick” baseball cap. (I doubt the gag travels out of the U.K. The “Kiss-Me-Quick” hat was an icon of the days of pre-jet British mass seaside holidays.)

If this were to happen in the next few years, I’d endeavor to hold it at the London Comedy Store, sitting on stage, microphone in hand, trying to joke about my imminent demise surrounded by comics I have spent a lifetime working with.

I’d be heckled to death.

If you or someone you know needs help in the U.K, you can reach Samaritans by calling 116 123. Visit this website for more information. In the U.S., you can reach the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741-741, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


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Douglas Cain avatar

Douglas Cain

I can relate, I've had MS for a little over 30 years, MS has had a profound effect on me and my families life. I'm very fortunate in that my wife has been with me through this entire journey.

I've tried most but not all of the DMD's, most recently Lemtrada. to no avail. So, my neurologist said I'm in the "geriatric stage of ms" that hurt my feelings. I too have knowingly taken drugs that are potentially deadly, yea, so what?

My doctor has no idea what this disease is doing, though, I'm still progressing. I choose to maintain a positive attitude, hell, it's the only thing I have control over. I see no reason to sew misery on myself, my family and friends.

I think suicide is a valid option, it's something I have contemplated but never pursued. I think it requires the depth of depression or an enormous amount of courage. But it's there if the burden becomes too great. Some might consider the act selfish, and, I suppose it is because of those that care about you and you've left them behind to grieve. There's a lot to think about.

Greg avatar


The title is very misleading. I was hoping for a pick me up, this is very depressing.

Thanks a lot!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Oh no it isn’t.
It’s the title of the Eric Idle penned song at the end of the ‘Life of Brian’.
It’s a comedic take on celebrating life whilst being slowly executed.
So there.

Greg avatar


Sorry, not seeing it. Bright side of life and a dissertation on suicide just don’t go together in my view.

Being somewhat depressed myself and very nervous about starting Lemtrada in August, I try to remain positive despite the MS and upcoming treatment and this post did not help.

Steve avatar


Completely agree Greg, he’s entitled to his view but what a disservice to some of us looking for some hope and strength

Rick A avatar

Rick A

To me, this scene is such a wonderfully (ironically) funny one in that movie.

Karen G. avatar

Karen G.

Having PPMS myself, I have always enjoyed your positive attitude of your struggle with MS and I was encouraged by the title of your column “Fall Down, Get Up Again”, but this column is more like “Fall Down, Stay Down”. Although sometimes humorous, it sounds as if you are giving up, or planning to.

Keep fighting John. Pray to God for strength.

Elaine avatar


I like that you write with a light hearted tone.

However, consider your audience. The community of persons with multiple sclerosis runs the gamut of permanently paralyzed to 'looking so well'. Those permanently paralyzed might in the worst of times read that you advocate suicide when mobility is severely compromised.

My mobility is compromised. Fortunately, (in a weird fortunate manner), I became slowly disabled after years of good remissions. A doctor told me recently that I have been secondary progressive for a number of years. Three previous neurologists missed it as they, tried but failed, to deny I had MS in the first place. It was news to me but I had suspected some change - I just did not name it. (The three previous neuros based their opinion upon a neurologist who like Trump reversed every previous decision legal note in the record. (Like a pack of wolves, they stuck together. It is worth your life to find a neurologist who thinks for him/herself.

The MS diagnosis prior to the lunkhead neuro was based upon about 20 years of work-up The dunce neurologist jumped to conclusions.

At that time, I was depressed, (with hindsight and good treatment), for which he did not treat my mood.
Mood disorders are woven through neurological disorders in ways that a patient may never recognize until it is too late.
If you do not feel tip top or, like your old self; if you are no longer interested in your passions or if you haven't figured out a way to convert those passions into an accessible version, ask your family doctor and/or your neurologist to put you on a trial of an anti-depressant.

One dose of an anti-D does not a miracle make! Try it for about 2 months (a safe time period).

If you have any increase feelings of doom and gloom within an hour, a day, or a week do not hesitate to call your doc or go to an emergency or urgent care center where they can evaluate you for risk.

If your wife, husband, son, daughter, cousin, or partner notices something not quite right and has the sense to alert you to the change, listen to him/her! If all is well, you will be screened and released.

Please notice that I do not recommend following up immediately with a therapist. That comes afterward per your choice. Therapy takes time because there are a lot of needy therapists out there. Avoid them - do not give them a second or third chance - nothing will change. The focus should be on you feeling better - even a little bit better - and not lining the pockets of a therapist who has lost their professional perspective!
I feel this subject is important enough to pay attention to seriously. Yes, we can laugh it off and it may be laughter or denial but there is a time to take depression seriously - that requires an OBJECTIVE person - a medical professional. Most Nurse Practitioners' are as excellent as medical doctors. Nurses are skilled with therapeutic speech - which allows all kinds of communication to freely flow.
I hope everyone takes care of #1. It isn't easy to have MS but it isn't a death knell - even if a persons mobility, like mine, begins to disappear slowly but surely. Choose the side of wellness! The mind has a lot to do with 'soldiering' on with MS no matter what stage of progression a person is experiencing. My physical therapist recently told me that prior to 1980 something, all MS was called progressive. The relapsing remitting is a misnomer. Most MS progresses, even if a person, like me, denies it for years.
Godspeed and good fortune to all my fellow human beings with or without MS.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi Elaine
I've been writing in one form or another since I was 19 [60 now]. All the writer's I admire use truth and humour.
Thanks for reading & indeed writing.
The only thing that connects us is MS - none of us chose it, we have been thrown together. My responsibility is to document how I deal with it. Surprisingly, I think this column has helped me. If I wasn't voracious with my own truth I wouldn't bother.
Ironically, as a pragmatic atheist, I think your god is having a good laugh.
Best John

Elaine avatar



I have been writing in one form or another since I was 8 (poetry). As a lapsed Roman Catholic, I do not think God laughs at those who struggle. I believe God is more focused on showing, even a lapsed Roman Catholic, hope, in ways one least expects. Best to you too, Elaine


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