Claire was diagnosed with MS six years ago. She tells us how it's affected her mental health and how she's learning to live well with MS.
MS, mental health and fatigue
Apart from the medical care I got from my local hospital I’d never reached out for any support for living with MS. I’ve got a few health conditions alongside MS and I just thought, ‘ok, this is something else I’ve got to get on with’. I can be pretty stubborn and it’s just the way I dealt with it.
But over lockdown, things changed. I started feeling concerned about what could happen if I caught COVID-19. For the first time I started saying I had a disability. My symptoms got worse and I started walking with a stick. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and extreme fatigue.
I work full time in a very busy payroll department for the NHS. It got to the point that a year ago I had to be signed off work for nearly three months for my mental health.
Getting help from the MS Society
While I was off I saw a post on Facebook about a talk the MS Society was hosting online on managing fatigue. It was part of the Living Well programme. The talk was brilliant. It gave me loads of information and was really practical. When it finished I felt more in control. It was a relief to know it wasn’t just me who struggled with those symptoms.
Since then I’ve logged on to another MS Society talk about working with MS. And I've taken part in a ‘conversation café’ where you meet other people in a similar situation. I’m ok talking to people one to one but don’t like speaking in a group. It freaks me out a bit and I worry what I’ve got to say might not be relevant. But everyone was so lovely and supportive so it felt safe to share.
Learning to look after my wellbeing
I’ve had six months of one-to-one counselling for depression and anxiety. Those sessions have made me realise I need to look after myself more. And that if I don’t give myself time to look after my wellbeing I won't be able to help others.
I've also learnt that I’m not a failure, weak or selfish for doing this. It’s not a selfish act to look after yourself before you look after other people.
I’ve never felt alone - my partner is amazing and has been so supportive. But in reaching out for support it’s really helped to know there are others like me. It’s helped to validate my feelings and I’ve learned it’s ok to ask for help.
Last year, more than 1,600 people attended our Living Well with MS activities and events across the UK. You can find out about upcoming sessions on our virtual support events page.