It’s OK Not to Be OK: What to Do When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

Depression and anxiety are thieves of joy. But change will come

Jamie Hughes avatar

by Jamie Hughes |

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For the last few months, I’ve been mired in something I can only describe as a funk. My job, my family, my faith, my entire life — no matter what aspect we’re talking about, I felt like I was stuck. I mean like soul-in-a-straitjacket stuck. Honestly, I hadn’t felt anything like it since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 17 years ago.

Things that once brought me joy, like keeping my garden, were an absolute drain. Habits that made me feel empowered, like staying on top of all the calendars and to-do lists in my life, were an absolute burden. Hell, even trying to drink enough water — which is important for MS patients — became onerous. It felt like I just wanted to curl up into a ball inside a pillow fort and never come out.

I realize now that I was suffering from some form of depression. All the typical symptoms were there. I was often sad, and my appetite dropped off. I thought and moved more slowly and felt totally worthless. I was constantly exhausted and had trouble concentrating, which for me is a huge deal since I earn my cheddar as a project manager.

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I am typically an optimistic person and an encourager by nature, but I was out of steam. Instead of positive self-talk, I began to say, “This is how life is going to be now, Jamie, so you better get used to it.”

But then, thankfully, things began to change little by little. The problems at work that made me feel trapped are slowly resolving themselves. Something at home that had been hanging over me for months looked like it might one day become a nonissue.

The tightness in my chest that had been there for months thankfully lessened. I found I could pray again and I had enough energy to get out and enjoy some exercise in the evening. And I also got back to doing those things that empowered me and helped me feel a sense of calm.

Looking back, I can see that a lot of my misery was caused by the anxiety I felt because so many things in my life, including my disease, were beyond my control. I was trying to hold on to things too tightly, panicking when they slipped through my fingers like water. The solution, I thought, was to fight harder, to clutch everything even more tightly. But all that was doing was leaving me defeated and miserable.

I had to hit bottom, to go through a dark night of the soul. And when I did, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t control everything. I let go. That’s when the relief came, and I saw light at the end of the tunnel.

A new normal has emerged, and I’m learning how to live in light of all I learned through that slow, painful, and isolating experience. It was hard, and while I never want to go through it again, I’m thinking that in the end, it was exactly what I needed.

If you’re feeling something similar, just know that you’re not alone. Others, especially those of us with MS, have experienced the overwhelming feelings you’re dealing with. And while it may seem like your painful process doesn’t have an endpoint, I can assure you it does. Spend some time working through your emotions. Ask yourself some hard questions, and don’t be afraid to speak to trusted friends or counselors about what you’re going through.

As Sam Cooke said, “A change is gonna come,” and you’ll be ready to meet it.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Phil avatar

Phil

Join the club. Just like you have to keep moving, you have to keep fighting. Not always a war, but a daily battle.

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

You're exactly right, Phil. Thanks for responding and sending a little encouragement my way. Every little bit helps!

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Joan Wheeler avatar

Joan Wheeler

Thank you, Jamie, this came when I really needed it. I was DX in 1999, and used to blog so I appreciate the work that you are doing. Keep up the good words!

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Thank you so much, Joan. It makes me so happy to know that something I'm putting out there is helping someone. I'm so glad you reached out and let me know! I was diagnosed not long after you in 2004 or so. Keep your chin up, friend. :)

Reply
Brian O’Neill avatar

Brian O’Neill

The “ok” article was great! As a male, you really, really need to learn that there is a new normal coming. This is a long process and the “hunter” of the family has a different role. You must believe in yourself and accept it—people get it. It’s ok to go through the stages of grief. There is a bunch of light on the other side!!

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

I agree one hundred percent, Brian. I think a lot of us would be better off with some therapy for all the changes we've been through lately!

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Ken Lowe avatar

Ken Lowe

I am so utterly demoralized by what the PPMS has already done mentally, and will continue to do to me and those I love, before my physical body is overcome.
Depression, and suicidal thoughts are overwhelming, for which I have even been hospitalized, for my safety.
I like to believe the "old me" was a leader and a trailblazer. I was a person that saw a need, and helped.
Now I am having problems just walking on the clear path that others are trying to help me navigate.

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Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Ken, my experience has been different from yours, so while I can't say I totally understand what you're going through, please know you are truly in my thoughts. This disease in an absolute nightmare. However, you do have others helping you navigate it as you said. That's a great blessing, and I'm grateful you have a community around you offering help and support.

The "old you" is still there, my friend. MS changes a lot of things physically and mentally, but it can't fundamentally alter who YOU are inside. Please remember that, no matter what, you are still Ken. Yes, you happen to have MS, but Ken is still Ken. Trust him, your friends, your doctors, and everyone else who has been placed in your life for such as season as this. Know that I am praying for you and all those wonderful people as you navigate everything. You're not alone!

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Ken Lowe avatar

Ken Lowe

Thank you for the reply, and encouragement. It seems I am still shocked as I am repeatedly confronted by how wide ranging the impact and debilitation of MS can be on our mental health, in addition to our physical health.
As you said, "This disease is an absolute nightmare"
I hate that those I love have to see me like this, as these are likely to be the strongest memories as they are more recent.

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