Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Emotion, Depression, and Other Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man

Finally, there is a topic in which I have zero concern! Yep, no problems here.
Thank you for reading.

Since you are still waiting, I assume you already know me and await my caveat, or you’re merely anticipating juicy bombshells. OK, here’s one:
* On several occasions, I completely lost the ability to manage and control the emotional effects of my MS. My condition has led to withdrawal, mood swings, irreparable damage to relationships, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
“Why would you admit such a thing?”
Good question [gold star for you]. There are so many reasons to come clean about my emotional fallibility.
First, if you know me already, I’m probably not dropping any bombshell. Perhaps you recognize my predicament and feel sympathy for me. Maybe you just think I’m an asshole. I would like the opportunity to change your perception.
If I constantly remind myself this condition exists, my awareness may be the tipping point to staves off catastrophic results in my next encounter.
And third, if I share my story enough, hopefully, someone out there will understand they are not alone in their fight. Because you are not alone.
I have spanned an infinite loop of emotional changes countless times over. I fully expect to revisit everyone throughout my long and prosperous future. The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss do not have one pass through, but as many as you can handle. I haven’t shared many of these before, but, since we’ve become so close, I figure I can confide in you.
My first struggle lasted more than four years.

The shock of my initial diagnosis was softened by the fact that I could continue to do my job in the Army. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, my commanders approved my request to remain in command of my Air Cavalry Troop in Korea. It was the greatest act of trust, faith, and confidence for me, a non-deployable soldier, to remain deployed overseas in command of troops. I worked to minimize the effects of my disability by charging full speed into my work and alcohol. Nine months later, I chalked up my return to the States as ‘their greatest mistake’. For my new life in the civilian world, work and alcohol remained always by my side.
Peppered throughout this stage were manic highs and lows, as I struggled to find a better life.
3 ½ years after diagnosis, which included seven moves, across three states and three continents, I crashed (literally) out of the first stage. In my wake, I left a lot of shattered relationships and despair. I grew angry with my MS for all it had taken from me.
Silliest reasons of all was war. I was angry my MS stole my life in the military before 9/11. I’m ashamed to admit I marginalized the suffering and sacrifice of so many by referring to it as something I missed out on. This was 2002 and 2003; I had yet to realize some of the amazing accomplishments I proudly boast of today; had I an ounce of foresight, my bar tabs would have been much, much lower.
Peppered throughout this stage were manic highs and lows, as I struggled to find a better life.
It was around this time when I drafted my first suicide note. I created a logical list of reasons why life is unbearable and unfair; on the opposite side, I crafted my fears, my hopes, my dreams. Multiple sclerosis and suicide peppered every thought. I would give anything, do anything, to figure how I can move forward past this state. I ran to the only place I could think of: to my mommy, my sister, and my brother. I was willing to give up everything, though I truly had nothing, if I could find an answer.
So, my sister took me in as I gave up everything; I stopped struggling through manic highs.
For seven months, I struggled through trying to rebuild the life and once had before multiple sclerosis, only to realize it was neither the life I wanted nor a life I was capable of achieving. Career searches, neurology appointments, psychological counseling, they all kept me just slightly on the correct side of sanity.
“If I just get a job, I can get back to my feet.”
“If I just get a girlfriend, I can get back on my feet.”
“If I can just get back to my feet…”
I finally stop searching for my fix, finding solace in where I was and what I had to offer. Volunteering at the VA hospital, I learned about true suffering… true sacrifice… true service. Only then, did I want to only build upon where I was in life/as a person, regardless of why I got there, and not where I should be.
I used to feel gratitude for the fact I went through the stages before I met Brie, before Eleanor was born. That round was merely the first, the most pronounced. I have struggled through so many rounds of Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance:
* Every hospitalization, every setback with my multiple sclerosis.
* The approach of my 43 years, 79 days birth date (the age my father was when he killed himself).
* The process through my disability classification of ‘100 % Total and Permanent’.
* The death and disability of friends, family, and loved ones, and the realization I don’t feel far behind.

There will be so many more stages to face, as there is much grief yet to come. In between this, there is an endless string of emotional windfalls and emotional challenges.
I accept that challenge.
[Challenge Accepted!]
And, I raise you one bit of sarcasm, courtesy of Eleanor.
[What do you call a puppy on a bicycle?
            A puppy bicycle!]



Emotional Changes
Can be a reaction to the stresses of living with MS as well as the result of neurologic and immune changes. Significant depression, mood swings, irritability, and episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying pose significant challenges for people with MS and their families.
Studies have suggested that clinical depression — the severest form of depression — is among the most common symptoms of MS. It is more common among people with MS than it is in the general population or in persons with many other chronic, disabling conditions.

The fight is not over and it won’t be over until a cure is found.
It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we
This is why we fight!

Never Stop… Never Quit…®
Kevin Byrne
Portland, OR

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