Black Knights of MS: Fear, Anger and Anxiety

Multiple sclerosis is known to cause neurological problems in people that live with the condition. There is much to talk about the emotional component and how feelings can affect the brain and life of the MSer. Of course there have been many people before me who tackled this theme, but I felt like I needed to tell it from my point of view.

Black Knights of MS? I know them well. A little bit too well for my taste.

Let’s look at them from a psychological point of view. We have a built-in “alarm system” called the fight-or-flight response. It is responsible for our survival instinct and regulates the emotions we feel (especially the negative ones) when facing danger. 

As we evolved from living in caves, we no longer have danger lurking all over the place. The predator is no longer after our heads, we no longer have to kill it or run from it. We face different troubles: daily stress, defending our principles, values and point of views, our status, etc. It all comes to being territorial. We defend OUR stuff. Some people do that by fighting back and some people do it by running away. But we all react to danger.

In MS, the danger comes from within. There is a battle fought in our bodies. Our brain is at war with our immune system. 

We see the casualties on MRI scans and while living our daily lives. You don’t know when the next attack is going to happen, you don’t know who the victims may be. You just see the ever-present Black Knights. 

You fear a new relapse, you get angry that this happened to you, and you live in a constant state of anxiety. And you don’t even realise it. These knights know how to hide. You go on with your day and you finally snap for no reason. You cry. You feel deep fear. Or deep anger. Your body gets into a stage of fight-or-flight. Your stress hormones begin to rise up and all of a sudden your day feels like crap.

How did I overcome this? I didn’t! I just went and said “Hi!” to the three knights. I got aware of the fact that I am afraid, I am angry and that I become anxious. And then I moved on. I calm myself by journaling, deep breathing, sleeping and taking life slow. You might wonder how is this “zen living” possible in today’s society? How can you live your life avoiding stress, avoiding negative emotions?

I don’t avoid them. I aknowledge them, breathe and move on. Do they backlash at me? Yes. Do I have scary moments of anger, fear and crying? Yes I have. Do they ever go away? Yes, they do. Do they come back? Yes they do. It's a constant battle that you have to aknowledge.

So, if you happen to meet the Black Knights of MS, don’t run away. Face them. Allow yourself to feel fear, anger and anxiety. Breathe deeply. It calms the nervous system and brings oxigenated  blood to your body. 

Then ask yourself WHY did you feel that way? And write it down. Write as much as you need to. Stop when you feel like you’re done. Then go do something else. It will all pass. I’ve been there!

Any negative emotion that has been felt for more than five days in a row, needs to be taken care of. Schedule an appointment with a psychologist, talk to your nurse or neurologist about it and ask for help.

Your brain might be at war, but you need to addapt and overcome the challenges your are faced with. Every single day.

Take care of yourself!

Alexandra Celic

P.S. Question: Do you feel any of the three knights? Share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter or in a comment down-below. Thank you!
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