3 posts tagged “patient guest post”

Surviving Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Posted June 13th, 2012 by

It’s Men’s Health Week, and we’re featuring the perspectives of – you guessed it – men.  Following tiredoftired’s guest post about depression on Monday, we are pleased to present this poignant essay by longtime PatientsLikeMe member and mentor Rick N, who has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 23 years.

I am a 58-year-old man with MS.  It has often been a long, bewildering, and lonely journey, which has taken me to the valleys of sorrow and to the pinnacles of success. MS is not a death sentence, as some would say. Rather, it is an opportunity to inspire and show to the world that an incurable disease can be transformed into a blessing, an enduring promise that life can go on.

MS is a slow and debilitating disease. It creates new challenges daily. Some days I forget that I even have the illness and can do most tasks and chores. The next day may find me with a trembling heart begging for mercy. Sometimes I think that the worst of MS is the unknown. I am currently diagnosed with primary progressive MS (PPMS). I awake with fears and anxieties. What is MS going to give me today? It is the challenge I must face. However, I will tell you how the monster can be defeated!

PatientsLikeMe Member and MS Mentor, Rick N

I do not perceive MS as burden, I see it as an opportunity to overcome. MS had me in a wheelchair for over two years. I was resigned to the fact that the rest of my life would be in this wheelchair. My first thought was simply, “Okay, if this is my life now, I am going to compete in the Paralympics.” So I climbed every hill in my wheelchair as my challenge, until I developed neuritis in both elbows requiring surgery.  That was the end of that goal.

But today, in spite of that setback, I am walking because of a positive attitude and a strong faith in miracles.

My faith in God’s will and guidance for me was ever clear. I made the best of my life as an example to all that “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you make of it.” Never did I pity myself in that wheelchair. I went out and about under all circumstances. Until one day something of a miracle happened. Whatever it was, I will never know for sure, but I was able to get up and begin to walk. It wasn’t pretty, but I put one step in front of the other and suddenly I was walking again. Then I used my lawn mower to stabilize me. Before long I could walk longer and longer distances. That was almost two years ago and I walk normally today. We all must believe that God’s healing miracles happen everyday. I am living proof.

Attitude is everything, regardless of your afflictions. MS is powerful. So much that it can lead one to believe it is impossible to live a healthy and happy life. Nothing must ever stand in the way of true HOPE. With hope and faith, mountains can be surmounted. However, this does not come easily.

PatientsLikeMe Member and MS Mentor, Rick N

Where does my unshakable attitude come? I often sit quietly, restful and calm. The physical realm becomes in some way a dwelling place for my spirit within. Time well spent in the calmness provides rest from the physical aches and strains. My pain level is always high. It is just the world I live in now. What I have cultivated from MS is the spirit of adventure and conquering the unknown. Acceptance means much.

In 2008, I came across PatientsLikeMe. It was like finding a great pearl in the oceans. Suddenly, the loneliness of MS could be understood by some 150,000 members with the same vague symptoms that I have. To explain what life is like with this disease, there are no words to do justice. But PatientsLikeMe gives me the opportunity to chart all of my symptoms, medications, conditions and treatments. It also offers daily journaling, and most of all, a forum in which I can read and comment with members that are in need of compassion or solutions to their current problems. This is a resource where I can find the answers to all of the confusion that goes along with most chronic illnesses. I have most definitely found it a haven of comfort.

I want to thank all who have read this. I am not a writer nor have I the talent for words. I only wanted to express my feelings about MS and the values that the disease has brought me. Should there be a cure today, I would much rather opt for the continuance of this illness. Reward and treasures are mine that I could obtain nowhere else.

Mike Wallace, Depression and Me

Posted June 11th, 2012 by

In honor of Men’s Health Week, we are pleased to present a guest post by PatientsLikeMe member tiredoftired, a young man who has been living with major depressive disorder since 2007.  Don’t miss this moving essay about how Mike Wallace’s passing earlier this year impacted and inspired him.

As I was driving to therapy on an April afternoon, I heard a news report that Mike Wallace, an original host of the television show 60 Minutes, had passed away.  I was intrigued when the short segment highlighted Wallace’s accomplishments in his battle with depression.  I was only somewhat familiar with the show, but it was obvious from the report that he had a decorated career as a journalist and his professional accomplishments could have easily taken the full slot.  Having struggled with depression myself, I felt compelled to investigate his life further.

Mike and Mary Wallace.  Photo Courtesy of CBS News.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work as I was, Wallace was a pioneer of the newsmagazine format, which shaped journalistic television.  He was a pit bull of a correspondent; with his aggressively confrontational approach, he posed direct questions that others were too afraid to ask, often leaving the subject shaken.  Wallace interviewed some of the most eminent, and even fearsome, people and did not hold back on his interrogation-like technique.

But Wallace said that his greatest accomplishment in life was that he survived.  Wallace endured several bouts of severe depression throughout his life, the first of which left him in such emptiness and despair that he attempted suicide as a means of escape.  He used his personal experiences with depression to share ideas that would give other sufferers advice and hope.  Reading about his life made me feel the same comfort he provided to others when he was alive, and I have become encouraged by lessons he transmitted.  Here are the top four:

  • There is no shame in depression: Wallace constantly repeated that depression does not signify an emotional weakness.  The pain, inability to cope and despair are unfathomable to those who have not experienced depression.  It is not a sadness that is surmountable by sheer willpower.  Aside from reassuring sufferers that their pain and disabilities were justified, it comforted them by seeing someone well-respected using his high-profile position to dissolve social stigma.
  • There is no shame in asking for help: The stigma can prevent people from seeking help and make them embarrassed that, unlike others, they are unable to push through sadness themselves.  Wallace said that the single most important thing you can do is to go and talk to someone.  He stressed that it is impossible for one to handle alone, and he encouraged people to seek therapy and take medication, as well as emphasizing the importance of social support from family and friends.
  • You are not alone: During depressive episodes, Wallace often talked to two close friends that also experienced depression.  By talking to those who could truly empathize, he felt comforted and validated.  Not only was he reassured that what he was feeling was normal, they were able to give him valuable insight and ideas.
  • There is a light at the end of the tunnel: Wallace’s friends also gave him hope.  He saw that they had been through the darkness of depression and survived.  And he passed along that message to others. As bad as it seems now, he told people, look at how he emerged from that same prison and went on to live a happy, productive life.

Mike Wallace has inspired me to perpetuate these messages and give others the same comfort and hope he gave me.  Depression is a real medical illness and pursuing treatment is nothing to be embarrassed about. With the help of mental health professionals and a strong support system, we have the ability to fight through the darkness.  By doing that, we can do more than just survive – we can build productive and meaningful lives.

Learn more about Mike Wallace’s struggle with depression in this candid CBS interview from 2006. Also, if you’re living with depression yourself, we invite you to join PatientsLikeMe’s depression community and connect with more than 11,000 others like you.