Judgment Can Help or Hinder

By Stacie Prada

What do I wish others knew about living with Multiple Sclerosis? I wish they knew their judgment could help or hinder us.

Everyone judges, and it’s not a bad thing. We all have opinions, hopes, fears, disappointments, appreciation, admiration, frustration, and expectations. They come through in our interactions even when trying to hide them. It’s not about the judgment, it’s about how it’s expressed. Whether that judgment comes through as cheerleading or criticizing matters.  

Fears, disappointment, frustration, and unmet expectations can be helpful when approached with compassion and interest. They’ll drive a wedge if expressed as disapproval.

Hopes, appreciation, and admiration can be encouraging when allowing for imperfection. The same can be destructive when interpreted as conditioned upon things beyond our control.     

We know we’re being judged. We judge ourselves too. We compare ourselves to others. We wonder if we’re doing enough and if what we’re doing makes a difference. We judge ourselves for our successes, shortcomings, achievements, and failures. We live with grief for what we’ve lost and what we might lose. Living with MS is relentless and exhausting, and we judge ourselves for our ability to manage it.

If you’re feeling frustrated with someone with MS or want to improve your relationship, consider how you feel about our MS. Do you accept it? Do you feel like we’d do better if we’d just do what you advise? Do you resent how it affects us? How you answer those questions is telling, but there’s no perfect answer. Being self-aware and considering how you express your feelings can be a starting point for improving any relationship.  

If these questions feel invasive, consider a person with MS or any chronic illness who lives with a societal norm where our health, life choices, and daily decisions are open game for group discussion and unsolicited advice with the best of intentions to help. The conversation isn’t inherently awful, but it is only productive when done with genuine respect.

Your judgment can be a teammate helping us navigate our challenges, or it can be an authority figure to avoid. You get to choose.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope, and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/ 

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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