Me and my "happy pill"

Oh, I remember. In my 20's, losing sight in my right eye, tingling in my hands. In my early 30's, unable to taste food, numbness on my right side. Then at 38, vertigo, numbness from my head to my foot only on my right side, slurred speech. Finally a diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. I couldn't get a disease that was easier to spell?!

I saw one of the best neurologists in New York City who told me that what I had experienced in the past and what I was experiencing now were symptoms of MS. Were there any treatments? Yes.  Was I going to inject myself? "No way."

As time went by and more symptoms kept appearing, my friends and partner suggested I speak to someone, "Who, me? A psychiatrist? I am NOT crazy!" They claimed I was depressed, my reaction continued to be despondent, not speaking but able to throw a pepper at my best friend across the table when I didn’t like what she had to say.

Eventually I started seeing a new MS neurologist at an MS clinic closer to home. I had detached myself from conversations and activities; the TV was my new best friend. My friends and partner did not give up trying to convince me that I needed to talk to someone, (even after the pepper incident). The name of a psychologist who worked at the clinic was given to my partner and me. I quickly threw it away, my partner didn't.

Then came my weak spot: beer. A new brewery opened down the street from the MS clinic. My friends said they would take me to the new brewery if I went and talked to the psychologist. I did, and although I tried not to like it, over time I came to realize that with talk and medication, the symptom known as depression could be controlled and the medication helped me get back in control of my life and change my state of mind. Ultimately, seeing that psychologist was the best move I made, with a little help from my friends.

Me and my "happy pill," better known as an anti-depressant, are doing well. I still have tingling, numbness on my right side, some cognitive issues, but with the help of my psychologist I was able to learn "tricks" to help me get though my day as a social studies teacher. With her help, I was able to explain to my students what was going on, what MS is, that it is not contagious, and how they could help me. My students and I even started a Walk MS team – Team Amici (which means “friend” in Italian).

If only someone had told me early on that depression was a symptom of MS, just like all the other "strange" things that were happening, I would have sought treatment for it like I did for the numbness and tingling 19 years ago. The "happy pill" has helped me cope, not feel sad, and be part of what is going on at work, with my family and special events. It has given me life back.

Tags Healthy Living, Symptoms, Treatment      24 Appreciate this
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Ann Borsellino

Ann Borsellino is 56 years old and was diagnosed with MS at age 38 in 1997. She taught high school history for 22 years in Mamaroneck, NY, and has been the president of the teachers' union for the past nine years. She lives with her partner of 28 years in Yorktown Heights, NY.

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  • Paula   Oct 28, 2015 3:20 PM
    Hello Ann I was diagnosed 19 years ago. Yes depresstion sucks and is part of MS. Walking still but certainly not for long distances which also sucks. I just wish they would find a cure
  • Lanie   Oct 28, 2015 3:21 PM
    You are the first one that has said anything about TASTE! That was the first problem that made me go to the Dr. Food & drinks tasted either bland or bitter. It seemed to be a mystery. Then, I started having double vision. I was diagnosed one day before my 60th birthday. I had hand tremors for quite a few years but never did anything about it. I also started suffering from fatigue several years before but thought it was just my age. Thankfully the diagnosis was pretty quick & my medication seems to be working. No new lesions. Depression definitely is understandable with this kind of disease. I have not had to take medication for it. Fatigue is my major problem now, so I am thankful for that. My vision feels stained at the end of the day & taste is almost back to normal. I find blessing in thinking that at my age, maybe the disease won't have time to progress too much.
  • Brenda   Oct 28, 2015 3:21 PM
    I had a baby in January of 1999. Five months later I had my diagnosis of MS. The summer of 94 I lost my rye sight in my right eye. Then April of 95 my daughter was born. After my sons birth I started falling down the shower. This was not like me. So off to the doctors. My MD sent me to orthopedic doctor who then sent me to neurologist. Who then said I had half hour to get to hospital. I get to hospital..park car..walk through parking lot no body in sight I took a flying leap into the bushes. No one in sight thank heavens....wait here comes white coats with a wheel chair...I was so embarrassed. I looked like a little kid....stocking ripped. Elbows skinned up...knees scraped. Then fianly having an MRI...that as when I learned I had MS. My son was five daughter was four yrs old.
    My first I have my kids tested? They told me now here it is 16 years later...some trouble walking. A numb left hand taking Tecfidera and doing great. I had and have ups and downs but I feel good.
    I always I have MS but it will NEVER have me. I have to much life to live. Besides know one wants to hear me complain.
  • Tina Drakeford   Oct 28, 2015 3:25 PM
    I am on anti-depressants (Cipromil) for Secondary Progressive MS but still get bouts of depression. Can you recommend any other anti-depressants that may help more so that I can ask my doctor/nuerologist about possibly changing to a different one? Thank you.
  • asra   Oct 28, 2015 4:24 PM
    What about the interferons that are given in MS. what is the mechanism of MS with interferons
  • riya   Oct 28, 2015 4:28 PM
    My mother has beeb diagnosed with MS in 2013 September. . Prednisolone steriods were given to her...the intensity of lesions has reduced but she has difficulty in speaking , walking , moos swings. , she over thinks a lot and gets tired. . Please tell us what is the next step we should take
  • Nancy Sullivan   Oct 28, 2015 5:27 PM
    Hi Ann. Thanks for sharing your story. I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 1980, when I was 30 years old. Symptoms were facial numbness. Stopped working in 1997. I take Extavia injections now. Wish I could use tablets but my neurologist hasn't recommended that yet. Miss driving because MS has slowed my reaction time. I was born in Staten Island and lived in the Upper West Side until 1991 when my employer transferred me to Massachusetts. THANK GOODNESS because there's no way I could use the subways with all the steps. Used to walk everywhere in Manhattan but no longer. Miss the concerts in Central Park, half price Broadway tickets and the incredible restaurants in Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, and all over Manhattan. Oh well! Life goes on. trying to stay positive. At least it's not fatal. Adjusting to my life in "Mayberry" and praying for a cure in my lifetime. Been married for 21 years to an incredible man.
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    cadailey514  Oct 28, 2015 6:52 PM
    Lanie: 1st time I have heard of someone else not being able to taste their food. I just got my taste somewhat back the other day. Have been without it for about 6 mos. Dealing w/hair loss now. Anyone else have this "symptom?" I also get extremely depressed.
  • Christina   Oct 28, 2015 9:07 PM
    I am a mother of a 19 year old daughter who was diagnosed in May 2015. Our doctor told us that she would live a healthy life, however he did not tell us all the side affects she will have. I googled MS, you can read what the side affects are but, reading another persons experience is more helpful than what I read online. At first I thought she was exaggerating, or being a baby, but I have learned that she is not. These symptoms are real and can be difficult to live with. She has had her 2nd relapse in 7 months. She is on medication for the MS as well as depression. Being only 19 your world is turned upside down, especially when hearing that the average age of being diagnosed is in your 30's and your only 19! Regardless of what age the news can be devistating. Thank you all for sharing your journey with us, it is greatly appreciated and inspiring.
  • SmartyPants   Oct 28, 2015 11:53 PM
    What courage you have, and stamina to keep going, keep living life and trying to be positive. I also have MS progressive and my r leg doesn't work too well, but i wear a leg brace and use a walker. Yes the hidden symptoms of MS are hard to take, the fatigue, the heat sensitivity in summer, and the blues that keep at bay as best i can. So far I haven't taken the happy pill yet but perhaps the time released morphine i take for back pain, keeps my spirits up. Morphine like marijuana works in the part of the brain that helps you cope with pain. It doesn't take it away but helps you forget its there. My biggest help is staying active, distracted, doing things, I wrote a book, The Eve Chronicles" by Diane DeVillers, check out my author page on amazon. Writing helps distract me and it's a world i can construct, dreams fill in the rest, i wake up some nights and have a whole chapter from a dream, and i get up and write it down. It seems to come from somewhere else. Tapping into your strengths is so important. Live well, love and be good to yourself.
  • Shannon   Oct 29, 2015 5:43 AM
    If you haven't tried changing your diet, please give it a try. Dr. Terry Wahls has a very interesting story. Google her, and she is on Facebook. My MS symptoms are so mild, that I haven't gone to a paleo diet, which is what she did. (Basically lots of vegetables, organ meats, muscle meat, no sugar, dairy, bread). It sure can't hurt to try. Good luck to all of you good people!
  • Ann Borsellino   Oct 29, 2015 10:05 AM
    I take Effexor 37.5 and Prozac 10mg. It works for me, but I had to experiment to find the correct dose.
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    samwhiteboston  Nov 9, 2015 12:54 PM
    You were so brave sharing this experience. It will make a big difference for many of your readers.
  • Lizeth   Nov 23, 2015 1:35 AM
    Im 23 years old and i had a doctors appointment two days ago once there, they sent me to the emergency room to be screened for MS
    I spent a day and a half in there and the results came out positive.. The doctor told me that it will take months to come up with an official diagnosis, but that everything pointed to MS.
    For about a year i thought i had carpal tunnel because im a cashier at a grocery store, but that diagnosis went out the window.
    I really dont know how to react. Its getting ao depressing and i feel worst thinking about the pain my parents are feeling. Its been some rought years. My mom was diagnosed with bone cancer and leukemia on february 2014 and it was devastating for us. They do not understand much about MS, but how do i explain to it to them? The doctors did not even explained it to me, and i was in such a shock that i i wanted to do was come home and lay down.
    How donu get over news like this?
  • Joel Lucas   Nov 24, 2015 7:23 PM
    I give thanks to our Lord and savior for all of you.
    My name is Joel A Lucas, I am so tired of being sick.
  • Holly   Nov 30, 2015 12:12 PM
    I was diagnosed 3 years ago when I went blind in my right eye. I am able to see now which is great but, now I have trouble walking, numbness on the left side of my body, sometimes I have speech problems, memory loss, falling and pain....oh, and recently I have been over seasoning all of my food because I cannot taste it. I am no longer able to work and things are tight at home since I am fighting with disability. The government says that I am too young and too educated not to work, lol, I guess the joke is on me since no one told my disease that bit of information. Anyway, with all of that being said, things could be much worse and I am grateful to still be able to live, laugh and love with all my heart.
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    melissabridges  Dec 13, 2015 2:13 PM
    I start AUBAGIO in 5 days. Anyone else on it? I am a bit excited but also nervous.
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    melissabridges  Dec 17, 2015 4:51 PM
    When that depression hits, it hits hard. This is not an easy thing to deal with. I start my treatment of aubagio tomorrow for MS. I hope that you are doing well.
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    trober14  Dec 25, 2015 8:25 PM
    New to it all soaking up any and all info.

  • arminius74  Jan 19, 2016 5:26 PM
    I was diagnosed last summer with MS and I'm just starting to understand this disease. More than anything I've felt that MS is just very annoying. It hasn't come close to killing me but I do have to get use to its symptoms. I can totally understand how MS can be depressing. I think I would feel depressed if I couldn't write or compose music. Fortunately, those parts of my brain have not been affected. I saw the depression with my father who had a different autoimmune disease, Lupus. He survived for the last twenty years of his life and I felt he left me a message: don't let this disease or any other get to you. I've worked very hard at not letting that happen to me and so far I feel I’ve been lucky.
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    ebdms  Jan 29, 2016 7:47 PM
    Wow! I am a Social Studies teacher also. I have not discussed with my students, but I feel a real need to do so. I am going to see my counselor next week. I'll ask her for tips on how to tell my kids. Thanks for sharing!
  • Ann Borsellino   Feb 1, 2016 8:50 AM
    Dear ebdms,
    Telling my students was one of my better decisions, not just for me, but for them..
    I needed their help to get me thru the class. When recall was an issue, we played a game to find the word I could not remember, when I had slurred speech I needed them to know I was not drunk, when my notes for the day were on the board, I needed them not to copy them all at once but listen to my lesson and follow the "bouncing ball". Most importantly, they learned compassion, understanding and how to be helpful. As graduates often tell me, I taught them more than history.
    Also, Team Amici reached not only kids from my class, but other students and teachers in the high school and the student parents.
    Take back what control you can from this unpredictable disease.
  • Crandah Mckenzie   Apr 1, 2016 2:04 PM
    My name is Crandah and I am 41 years old. I have suffered from numbness and fatigue in my arms and legs, depression, memory loss, facial numbness, and vision problems since I was 19. I was diagnosed a few years back with MS and prescribed daily copaxle injections. I knew there was an alternative health care choice for me since I feared the injections and it's side effects. I am happy to say 95% of my MS symptoms are gone due to Nikken Magnetic Technologies. I recently completed a Triathlon and I feel like I'm 20 again. I sleep on the Nikken magnetic sleep system, wear the magnetic necklace, bracelet and insoles every day. I also take the Nikken Nutritionals. My mission is to share my story and help as many people as I possibly can. Please email me if you would like to hear more about Nikken. There is no reason to suffer! There is hope...
  • Debra   Apr 5, 2016 9:23 PM
    In 1999, I went from very healthy to very sick and eventually was diagnosed with MS. My last MS symptoms went away in 2001 and I have been symptom-free and have enjoyed 100% normal health and activity level for the last 15 years - praise God! I hope that my story will give you helpful information and hope. You can download it free at my site I pray for your healing! Yours in Faith and Health - Debra.
  • tracy-short  Jun 14, 2016 12:11 AM
    How lucky for you that medication allows you to keep working. There does not seem to be a pill that could fix my depression. If only I had friends to even notice that I need help. Isolation and despair are all I know.
  • sonja85  Aug 20, 2017 6:26 AM
    Thank you for your article, it's encouraging. I'm struggling with this same situation of not wanting to speak with a psychologist. I know I need a"happy pill ", however, I'm afraid the antidepressants will have me gaining more weight. Any suggestions on which one works for you.
  • Wendy   Oct 19, 2017 12:43 PM
    Love your attitude
    MS sucks
    Daily struggle
    Stay strong girl