More than just the winter blues?
During the winter months, people can start to feel down. Between the shorter days, the colder weather and the rush of the holidays, it can be a difficult time for many—particularly if you are living with a disability.
It is important to remember, however, that you are not alone. Whether you feel depressed or anxious because of bad news, a new diagnosis, the effects of winter—or if you live with those feelings every day—there are people who can help you through it.
In her article “Transcending Fear and Anxiety” in Quest magazine, Kristal Hardin describes how people living with neuromuscular disorders can feel depressed or anxious:
Muscular dystrophy chips away at our physical abilities sometimes so slowly that we don’t even know what we were physically capable of until it’s gone. This can be a challenge to both our mental and emotional stability. We may find ourselves distressed, despondent and dependent on any available helping hand.
As this disease ravages our muscular skeleton, we strive to know our own limitations, and this uncertainty can lead to fear and anxiety. But an inner desire for independence compels us to test what is physically possible.
As Donna Shryer suggests in “New View,” another article in Quest, these feelings are not symptoms of your disorder—they are a byproduct of living with it:
Few would dispute that living with a physical disability—whether it’s from a form of muscular dystrophy or cardiovascular disease—can trigger anxiety or depression. But it’s essential to remember that these feelings are not physiological symptoms of such diseases; they’re byproducts of living with those diseases and any associated physical disability.
Take muscle disease: repercussions of losing muscle tissue and gaining muscle weakness can include feelings of loneliness brought on by social isolation, fear of the future and mourning the loss of what you pictured the future might look like. In addition, some people are predisposed to mood disorders regardless of physical health. “Depression relates to a host of factors, and you should never assume that anxiety or depression is a natural part of the disability,” stresses Danielle Sheypuk, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist who also has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
So what can you do if you are experiencing anxiety or depression? Shryer’s article offers some strategies that can help, such as keeping things in perspective, staying connected with others or living in the moment. Check out the full article to learn more about these strategies.
If these feeling persist, consider seeking professional advice. The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign in the UK created an FAQ about counselling and what you can expect from the process. Canadian resources on mental health include the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Resources page at Healthy Minds Canada. Finally, if you would like to be connected to local professionals, contact Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s Services Teams .
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Anxiety and depression are not inevitable or insurmountable—and there are people who can help.