The Dark Horse of Depression that Followed My MG Diagnosis

Retha De Wet avatar

by Retha De Wet |

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Editor’s Note: This column discusses the sensitive topic of suicidal ideation. 

The moment doctors diagnosed me with myasthenia gravis (MG), they prescribed me antidepressants. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time. I thought a diagnosis would result in treatment that would restore the life I had been slowly losing. I thought my life would return to that of a normal 20-something. I wasn’t quite right.

I wish that when prescribing antidepressants, the neurologist had told me that depression was common among those diagnosed with chronic illness. I wish she had recommended that I see a psychologist in conjunction with the prescribed medication.

I wish she had taken a minute to tell me that the immunosuppressive medications she had prescribed wouldn’t make my symptoms miraculously disappear. In fact, they would take several months to have any lasting effect.

I wish that when she prescribed prednisone, she had told me about the terrible side effects it can inflict. I wish she had warned me, in any way, of the roller coaster ride of emotions on which I was about to embark.

I wished she had given me any verbal input to prepare me for what I might endure, other than prescribing an antidepressant every day. If I’ve learned anything from depression in the last five years since my diagnosis, it’s that a tablet alone won’t manage it.

I only very recently was diagnosed with severe depression, about four years after my diagnosis. It came as no surprise to me when the psychiatrist treating me for the psychiatric side effects of prednisone told me that I was depressed. Honestly, I was relieved.

I had been living with symptoms of depression for years after my diagnosis of MG without even contemplating the possibility of a mental illness diagnosis to add to my basket of diseases.

Suicidal thoughts were common for me, but I never felt I could open up about these feelings. Everyone supporting me praised my endurance and fighting spirit continuously. I thought the truth would just let them down, or worse, add to the already heavy burden of caring for someone with MG.

Today, I realize that conquering those dark thoughts is brave. It is a testament to my fighting spirit and endurance. Not only am I constantly battling my body, but I am also battling my mind. I have survived thus far, through weak respiratory muscles and the strong and overwhelming feelings of depression.

I am lucky to have found a psychologist and neuropsychiatrist who not only took the time to explain to me that I was depressed but who are also actively helping me manage it. Even now, as I’m entering another week of my current MG flare, I have no suicidal thoughts.

I have realized that not only is this a testament to the excellent care I am currently receiving. It also emphasizes my fighting spirit and will to survive, despite all hindrances. It has made me appreciate more than ever that life is beautiful, and I will never stop fighting.


If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or needs someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255 or visit


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


Barb Nelson. avatar

Barb Nelson.

I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis when l was 13-14years old, in the 1960s.In those days, support groups did not exist. When you fell over on the road you just picked yourself up and got on with it! Nearly drown in the pool because your lungs couldn't work under the pressure of the water, everyone laughs at you.Pill pop all day long so you could function at school. That's just the way it was.Being normal was not the normality of my life.

Charles Witcher avatar

Charles Witcher

Dear Ms De Wit. Thank you for the article. It touches on several of my current and past problems and demons. I am soon to be seventy nine and have had depression off and on for fifty years. I also write. If I may suggest: A Dark horse is a contender that seems unlikely to win, but finally triumphs, not I believe an apt simile for a disease, certainly not a hopeful one. Another animal has for a long time been used as a metaphor for depression. The most famous person to use it was Winston Churchill. The Black dog, It always worked for me. A never wandering presence which I came to see as part of myself, even to love.
Regards, Charles Witcher

Jennifer avatar


Hello, my husband lost that fight last year after being diagnosed 2.5 years prior. His doctors didn't warn us of the increased risk to his mental health despite a history of depression. I want to create change so that there is a decrease in the risk of suicide after a diagnosis of a chronic neurological disorder. I feel there needs to be a response team to talk to these patients and connect them to resources and information. It is important for caregivers/family members to be informed as well. Thank you for sharing your story. Information is a powerful tool and that is going to help someone else who may find themselves in my husband's shoes. Stay strong and continue to be that brave snowflake warrior!💖


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Myasthenia Gravis News conducted a survey from Feb. 11-March 28 to gain greater insight into the characteristics of the MG community and disease management. Results of the survey have now been published. Click on the image to view the infographic, and click here to read the story.