By Lisa Scroggins
People who have MS are like snowflakes: they have the same diagnosis, but each one will have a unique portfolio of signs and symptoms. It’s really a bizarre feature of MS, that despite similarities, the way symptoms appear can be drastically different. Many of the symptoms are invisible to others, yet have a profound effect on the person. Even so, most folks with MS understand pretty well the weird sensations and feelings of discomfiture that each one of us experiences.
Family members operate in a similar way, in that they all have their own relationship with each of the others. Some are closer than others, and some have little to talk about. While as a person with MS, you don’t get to choose your symptoms, you can choose the people with whom you surround yourself. Most of us know that drama and conflict are burdens on our nervous systems which we can ill afford. As demyelination strips us of some important “insulation,” we have to compensate for the less-than-ideal environment that we are left with. Emotions as well as signs and symptoms all emanate from our brains, and as MS uses a lot of our reserve, we have to rethink the best use of what we’ve got. This means that on a difficult day, when symptoms are aggravating, it’s not the ideal time to drag up an old argument.
Many of us cling to notions of what the “perfect” family looks like and even subconsciously try to recreate that at special times. It’s prudent to bear in mind that emotions are likely to be running high, just because of the sentimental character of beloved holidays. Combining that with any worsening of old symptoms or the entry of new ones has explosive potential. It’s very important to protect yourself from stormy interactions if at all possible!
What I’m really trying to say, is that if you have MS, you really must be selfish at times (like the holidays) of high stress. I use the word “selfish,” but truthfully, your selfishness will pay off for the people who are closest to you. If you’re able to refuse to engage in ancient dramas, to get upset about inane things like “who should do X,” and “why don’t you do Y?”, you will have gone a long way toward preserving the quality of this time for you, and for those closest to you. I wish you all a serene, sometimes exciting, and happy time, whichever holiday you are celebrating.