We asked our cadre of MS & Me bloggers what lessons they might have learned living with multiple sclerosis. Our editorial team was surprised – but then, once we thought about it we weren’t surprised at all- at how similar our contributors’ advice was. Yes, everyone’s MS is different. And just as everyone’s life experience differs, the way we cope with the challenges and adversities the disease visits upon us will vary. Still, there were several common themes running through their responses and we hope you find them helpful.
Don’t let others tell you how you should feel, behave, or live your life with MS. Nobody knows your life better than you; listen to your body. Learn to deal with insensitive comments, because people can say the most insensitive thing.
It’s okay not to be okay sometimes. Give yourself permission to leave that super hero cape in the wardrobe.
Accepting help is not a failure and doesn't mean you are a burden. People who care about you are just as frustrated with MS and want to do something to help. It makes them feel better. The price to be paid for overdoing things can be high, so learn to differentiate between doing as much as you can and doing as much as is reasonable. Ask yourself, “Can an assisted device of some sort make this task easier?” “Would that improve my quality of life?” If the answer is yes, use the damned device.
Self-care is not the same as being selfish. It’s okay to put myself first. It’s okay to say, “No”.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk to your medical team about anything… ANYTHING! From sex to toileting to cognition to palliative care and your fears, talk about it. Embarrassment gets in the way of you receiving the best possible care.
You have nothing for which to apologize when it comes to multiple sclerosis. MS is not your fault and MS is not something of which you need be ashamed, so MS doesn’t get an “I'm sorry”. Save the apologies for when they really matter.
Learn to adapt to the moving target of your ‘new normal’. Make allowances and be realistic about what you can and can't do. Everyone has his or her limits. We just might face them more regularly.
Life stops for nothing, not even MS. Don't let the disease stop you from living, loving, and laughing. MS will take the steering wheel if you let it…. Don’t Let It!
Be kind to yourself. Living with an oft-invisible illness can be tough. Be grateful for what you have and still be willing to share of yourself with those who make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others. You have great gifts worth sharing.
Not everything that goes wrong with your health (or your life, for that matter) is necessarily MS related. If you need to talk it out, find someone you trust to talk to. If it’s a professional, make sure they’re trained and accredited.
Bonus Lesson: Don't ignore your medical team's advice. That said, it’s your life. If you have done the research and feel that it’s best for you to disregard their suggestions, don’t go rogue. Let them know what you are doing or not doing, what you are taking or not taking and why because, well…see lesson # 1.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.