Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: MS and Mood Swings

You’re so dramatic. You try too hard. How do you stay so upbeat all the time? Why are you always so negative? You’re crazy.

These are all phrases that I have come to accept as things people will continue to say to me for the rest of my life. They all contradict one another, right? It takes you on a bit of a roller coaster when you start to think about how these could all be said to the same person, and usually within a short period of time.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was told that it could come with adverse effects on not only my physical health, but my mental health as well. It can be easy to become discouraged and depressed. While I try to remain positive, the one thing that makes MS nearly impossible to manage – at least for me – are the mood swings! I am constantly catching myself apologizing for my actions where sometimes an apology may not be warranted.

My relationships with people tend to become very complex because of the mood swings I am not in control of. One minute, I could be laughing with a coworker and sociable, while 10 minutes from then I could be crying silently at my desk because a thought came into my head. This may seem like something everyone goes through, but it’s different for someone with MS. There are other factors to consider in every situation; am I cranky because I’m feeling fatigued? Was the day going fine, and then suddenly, I am secretly popping Tylenol because my arms are tingling? Sometimes there is no physical cause, either – with MS comes the risk of developing depression.

While I am constantly striving to brighten my days and everyone’s days around me, there are moments where something will snap. That’s something I have spent the years since my diagnosis accepting, because it is a factor in my life that I cannot change. It’s okay to feel down out of nowhere, because there is more going on in your head than most people can even begin to imagine - literally and hypothetically!

When I come to the realization that my MS is affecting my mood and I’ve been, unfortunately, taking it out on the people around me, there are a few actions I take. I stop, think and remedy.

If I am suddenly the most unpleasant human being to be around, spewing sarcasm and negativity, I will stop and think. In reality, the person I am berating didn’t do a thing to me, so why should they get the heat? When necessary, I will always apologize! Sometimes I will say, “I apologize, I’m having a rough day with my symptoms, etc.” Sometimes I will keep my MS in the back of my mind, and say “I’m sorry, I’m just having a hard time emotionally today.” No one needs to know the explicit details of your life unless you want to share.

It isn’t the horrific mood swings that define you, it’s your ability to bounce back from them!

Ever feel the crazy bug pinch you at an inexplicable moment? Maybe it’s your hormones. Maybe it’s something that happened to you that day. Maybe it’s MS creeping up in the back of your head (no pun intended) just to say hi. If you’ve experienced the wild mood swings I have, you’re not alone, and you are not crazy! Trust me, the mood swings may never go away, but they do get easier to recognize, control and handle.

I do not look at my MS as something that will ruin my life. I see it as an opportunity to really connect with others who have exerienced similar situations as me and to work toward bettering the lives of others just like me.

No matter where you are in your struggles, you can do it. You are not alone and you never will be. Keep going, channel your emotions into something you love and smile!
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Catherine Weston

Catherine is a professional in the medical marketing industry from Long Island, NY. She aspires to show the world that MS doesn't hold her back. She was diagnosed in 2014 and has been striving to help others overcome their fears and limitations since (she also loves sheep!). Keep up with Catherine and her adventures in wellness through her blog!

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  • Sarah   Oct 5, 2017 2:23 PM
    Thank you for writing this and vulnerably sharing something that is true for so many of us. I totally relate to mood swings. While people close to me notice my mood changing more easily than others. I have some days where I am crying and hopeless and some days where I am happy, engaging and optimistic. I appreciate this article!
  • Francine   Oct 6, 2017 7:17 AM
    Thanks for your input. It was helpful to read. I can help MS patients understand what's happening.
  • jezzi_k  Oct 6, 2017 5:21 PM
    Thanks for that!! My mood swings are awful... Love your optimism. Which I need more of.
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    bbecker227  Oct 6, 2017 8:41 PM
    Literally sounds like me at work. I do not have a diagnosis but everyday i feel worse. Thank you so much for sharing!!
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    blschaar  Oct 8, 2017 4:14 PM
    The cognitive impairment and emotional swings have been the most debilitating part of my disease. I'm glad you shared this, and I am glad you said the truth- the mood swings are not likely to go away.
    I've always been the problem solver. But not so with the mood swings. They seem to be a manifestation of MS- not me or a reaction or practical mental health. It is like "it" operates outside and separate from me. I hate it. I don't control it, and the comments from others: "think of others", "you've always been that way" "you always want to label things" UGH!!
    I do think of others with almost painful empathy, I may have always been this way if I've had MS longer than the diagnosis, and yes, I want a label.

    Later this month I get a very comprehensive neuro-psyche exam (I've cancelled twice it's my last chance) Tell me what I intuitively know, I guess. Name it for me.

    It's been very isolating. It is emotionally painful. There are good days (and I am absolutely fine!), then not-so-good days where I am utterly hopeless and despondent, and I am beyond tired of asking for help. I think getting through those days is the miracle, success. I am glad I am not the only one, because frankly, I feel completely crazy and consider checking into a hospital and saying "I quit"

    But I haven't quit yet. I try to listen to something like music or podcast to keep my mind busy or it will fill with these awful thoughts and feelings.

    thanks again for sharing
  • crweston94  Oct 10, 2017 7:38 AM
    This is definitely one of the harder aspects of coming to terms with my MS and I had a feeling that others out there were experiencing the same thing, though no one really likes to talk about it. I'm glad that you all were able to share this experience with me and share your own points of view, it's inspiring! Keep going, keep being awesome, and remember that you are not alone! :)
  • Carolyn Silacci   Oct 12, 2017 10:31 AM
    Thank you for sharing, our son, who is on the verge of being 11 and has dealt with MS for over half his life already, deals with this. We often struggle with trying to decifer whether it's hormones, pre-teen angst or MS. Your article reinforces my hunch on this. Thank you.
  • Ana Costa   Oct 12, 2017 11:08 AM
    Thank you for your kind words. My "moods" already cost me my 8,5 years boyfriend (probably the love of my life) and my relation with my parent seems like a tic tac bomb. In portuguese in don't call anyone crazy cause is highly offensive but we say "you're unbalanced" wish is a fancy way to put it. I don't socialize, at all, with people with MS, and as far as I my doctor opinions, this is in my head. So is MS. Every Day I struggle with pain and hardness in one leg, wish doens't stop me of doing anything, but it hurts. I can't complain because People around Will be between "stay still, don't move, rest" to "I don't see why you are tired". My biggest afraid is the future in wish i make my Best effort no to think. I don't live the past (not True actually but i try to), the future, and i don't know what to do with present. I'm currently unemployed, trying to studied to get tools to a job (in my 31 years old), so every thing is grey now... But this is Portugal, 12 october 17, 30°C out side, sun is shining... Let's do this... I loved you text and feel inspired. Thanks
  • laurenm02  Oct 12, 2017 2:38 PM
    My mum sufferes from ms has done since before i was born she has been in a wheelchair since i was three and these things happen everyday and as much as i try to understand i never really can i can only try and support her but its hard im 15 but this has really helped me thank you !
  • Teresa   Oct 12, 2017 6:45 PM
    i was very happy to read this. i don't feel alone anymore. Have been told forever that MS only affects two emotions. How it can miss all the others is beyond me. Thank you for sharing.
  • Mike   Oct 13, 2017 7:59 AM
    Thank you for putting into words what many of us have experienced or know, but sometimes forget. My wife has RR MS and I see a lot of this in her from time to time. I sometimes lash out because this type of symptom isn't something that you can "see". Often times I forget that she has issues processing and also the mood swings. Your writing about this makes me more sensitive to what she's going through and helps change the way I deal with her when she is experiencing this.
  • Ann Rakosnik   Oct 13, 2017 8:17 AM
    I have had too many "melt downs" lately. I just smile and go on in a normal way. Normal as can be..
  • Kristi Lenart   Oct 16, 2017 2:38 PM
    Am very interested in the first couple of treatments and the next one, which is scheduled for February, which will be the entire post. How will this affect me?