Relationships and Multiple Sclerosis

By Ashley Ringstaff

Living with multiple sclerosis is life changing for the person diagnosed, but it is also a change for our loved ones as well. I often tell people that my loved ones “Live with MS” also, because it is now a part of their lives for the long haul. It’s a learning experience and modification time for all involved. Things change when we least expect it as well, that will need modifications along the way. Meaning, if we relapse, new symptoms occur, etc.

I can honestly say that when I was first diagnosed that I pushed people away, especially my husband. I was only 22 at the time of diagnosis, and I felt like I didn’t want to make him deal with this at such a young age as well. Luckily for me, he is very stubborn and didn’t allow me to push him away, and for that I’m grateful.

There were people close to me at the time of diagnosis, which I no longer associate with. It was not my choice to no longer be friends with them, but things happen. It hurt, to have people abandon me at such a crazy time in my life. I understand now that not everyone can “handle” multiple sclerosis, even indirectly.

The state of mind I had when I was first diagnosed – I was very depressed, as well as angry. I couldn’t even tell you which emotion I was feeling more of at that time. They were pretty much dead even, but one would be more prominent at times, depending on the situation.

Many people, including myself, will tell you that you find out whom your true friends are when faced with such a life-changing event. I’ve made new friends since my diagnosis, and I have come to tell people straight off the bat that there will be times that I have to cancel last minute on plans, or I can’t give a 100% answer on if I can go to an event or not, because it all depends on other factors. Is the event outside, is it very hot outside, etc.

If you’re reading this, and you are in a relationship with someone that has MS, please be patient, especially if they are newly diagnosed. For those of you that are friends with someone that has MS, in a relationship with them, related to them, etc. Please be patient in general. Also, take the time to try and understand what we’re going through as best as you can. It makes it easier for us to vent and talk to you, when you have some sort of knowledge about multiple sclerosis, and how it affects us on a daily basis.

I have a friend that I don’t get to see as often as we would like, but she still texts me or calls me just checking on me… seeing how I’m doing… Do I need anything? I can’t even being to explain to you how much that means to me, and to many others living with MS. Just having someone there for us, it can mean the world.

For those of you that have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, you are not alone. You have so many of us out here in the MS community that will be there for you and talk to you, and just let you vent… we may need to vent in return. I’ve had so many people message me on social media, and are so glad that they have someone to talk to about this illness, that “get’s it”. Also, know that those around you might want to be there for you, but they just don’t know how. You need to let them know what they can do help you out, or even suggest some things they can read, etc. I know it’s easy to isolate ourselves, to avoid people leaving us in the long run… but then you have no one there for you in the end.

There are so many resources out there that offer ways for you to build relationships with others living with MS in your local community, online, etc. Here is a listing of the organizations apart of the MS Coalition, click here. Here is another listing as well, click here.

Whatever you are feeling and/or going through, it is never ‘wrong’. You have the right to feel certain ways, and we can’t control the way MS affects each and every one of us. We are all affected differently, but we are all in this together. I can honestly tell you that many people that I’ve spoken to with Multiple Sclerosis, want to hand out the “MS &Things People Should NOT Say” list to their loved ones, and other articles I’ve written on MultipleSclerosis.net. There is also a list my good friends and fellow writer, Cathy Chester wrote called, “What People SHOULD Say to Someone Living with Multiple Sclerosis.” This is a good article to read for the friends and loved ones of someone living with MS.

I hope you enjoyed the article, and please feel free to reach out to me on my Facebook page if you ever just need to chat.

*Ashley is a 29 year old from Central Texas, that was diagnosed with RRMS in August 2010, at the age of 22. She is a mom of two boys and loves to read & write in her spare time. Ashley is a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net, you can view her blogs here. Her writing is mostly written with a sense of humor and personal experiences. 

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Canceled Plans… Again

canceled-plansBy Penelope Conway

Life was good before multiple sclerosis. I had great friends. We would spend time together on the weekends going out to eat or bowling. In the summer we would plan hiking trips through the mountains and in the winter we would go skiing. When MS became a part of the picture, those nights out and trips dwindled. Eventually I wasn’t even being invited out anymore, they would just go without me. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “I have MS, I didn’t die.”

Amazingly, you discover who your real friends are once MS becomes a part of your life. People will either stand by you and help hold you up when you are at your weakest or they will walk away. If they choose to walk away, let them. You don’t need anyone in your life pulling you down. MS is already doing a pretty good job of that already.

I have days when I find myself dealing with physical symptoms like tremors, pain, weakness, numbness, vision problems, and muscle spasms. Enough to cause me difficulties but not enough to stop me from continuing on in my day. Then there are times when everything become so intense, when the pain and weakness grows so deep, that it bleeds over into every part of my life as it tries to get its grubby little hands on things like my thoughts and emotions.

One thing I have learned over time is that MS is not a disease you can keep to yourself. We try though… don’t we?! I know I do. I try to keep the effects of MS neatly contained in its own little space hoping to shield myself and those around me from its impending destruction, but it seems the more I try to contain it, the more it spills out. It’s kind of like trying to rake the leaves in my yard into a pile on a windy day. What a futile task. No matter how hard I try, they just won’t stay where I put them.

Regardless of what anyone thinks, we need people, especially when living with a chronic illness and even more so at this time of year. It’s a time when the weather is unforgiving, parties don’t cooperate with our MS limitations, and depression has this sneaky little way of creeping into our lives.

It’s amazing the things we have to consider when receiving an invitation. Is the location accessible? Will the wheels on my walker or wheelchair leave wintry slush tracks on someone’s nice carpet? Will my body play nice? Will I be able to manage the crowds and traffic? Will my finances be stretched too thin, above and beyond any past due medical bills? Will fatigue hit hard keeping me from being a part of the fun? Will people understand my decision to go home early or that I had to cancel plans last minute? Will they even invite me in the first place?

Real friends get it, though. I was once told, “You can count your true friends on one hand and sometimes on one finger.” How true is that?

I know it’s not always easy to do, but be determined to fill the days ahead with the warmth of a few close friends. It really does brighten the gloomy winter days. If you can’t get out, invite someone over for a special movie night complete with pizza and popcorn or even Skype with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes something as simple as a text message back and forth with someone you haven’t heard from in a long time can give you a smile that lasts for days.

From one friend to another: do your best to find joy in the wintry cold mix and always remember just how absolutely, positively, incredibly amazing you are. I sure happen to think so.

*Penelope Conway was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2011. She is the author and founder of Positive Living with MS (positivelivingwithms.com) where she uses humor and her own life experiences with MS to help others navigate this unpredictable journey. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day.

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