Coping with Toxic People in Your Life

Toxic people are completely exhausting and harmful to be around. Not only this, but they can also have a negative impact on your health.  Dealing with such individuals on a daily basis is unfavorable for anyone’s health, but it can be even more damaging if you are battling a chronic condition like MS.  As most of our community members realize, living with MS can make life difficult and can require a great amount support from those around you. When one’s support system becomes anything but supportive, it can have a damaging impact on your well-being.  We at MultipleSclerosis.net recently posted an article about the presence of toxic people in life and how to deal with them, and received an overwhelming community response. We had such a large response, that we wanted to capture some of those experiences, advice, and stories and share them with you!

Identifying toxic people and their behavior is important

There may be individuals that shrug off your condition as unimportant or unreal. They can’t even begin to understand what you are going through. These types of people can be dismissive and compare whatever you are going through to their situation. Identifying and avoiding these people (if possible!) is key.

“I have one person very close to me that just doesn’t get it, actually refuses to believe that I have MS.”

“Dealing with this is not fun; my so called friends don’t like to talk about it or hear about what I am going through.”

“I can’t work and my ‘friends’ call me lazy.”

“I hate it when my family members say, ‘You don’t look sick.’”

“My Mom tells me when I’m having a bad day to, ‘just stop thinking about it…If you don’t think about it, it will just go away.’”

“Comment made to me by an insensitive friend ‘Everyone has their burden’…..”

“I get it all the time, I mention I am tired … they are just as tired.  I mention my forgetfulness; they are just as bad. I mention my pain and theirs is worse.” 

“I hate when people say, ‘I get tired, too.’”

Toxic people don’t take the time to understand

Toxic people make you feel like a burden, and are generally unsupportive. These negative feelings are expressed not only verbally, but with actions as well.  These types of people don’t take the time to learn or understand what you are going through. If possible, it can be an incredibly healthy decision to avoid these individuals who don’t take the time to learn about what you’re going through, or who make you feel like you are too much effort to be around.

My Mom met a woman with MS and said ‘she seemed ok and active…You need to be more like that.’”

“It’s so not worth saying anything to anyone because they just don’t care enough to learn about MS.”

“Somebody told me once to ‘pull myself together.’”

“They just don’t get it or even try to get it!

“My husband has MS. His adult children refuse to see or understand how disabling his MS is. It is very frustrating”

We all know someone that is potentially toxic, and they can bring you down and affect your health and well-being.  How we learn to live with these people is up to us.  If at all possible, try to surround yourself with positive, supportive people who are better for your health and well-being. These individuals can make any day seem brighter and remind you that you are not alone in this. If you’re still searching for individuals like this in your life, or just want to expand on the network you have, our community is always open to new members, stories, tips, and ideas! We’re always here for you!

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Creating Relationships with MS

By Laura Kolaczkowski 

When we talk about relationships it’s easy to immediately think of partners, children, and other family members and how our time with them is impacted by our multiple sclerosis.  The twitter hashtag #WeHaveMS rings true because having MS affects everyone in our close family circle.

Then there are other relationships that develop because of our disease – that would include the ongoing contact we have with our care team. Our neurologists, nurses, medical assistances, billing clerks, and everyone else in the MS clinic are people we become familiar with and dependent upon in more than a passing basis, and we develop a long-term relationship with them as well.

As important as our family and our providers are in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, there is one group that holds more importance than these others – that would be the people who make up the MS community.  People living with MS understand what it’s like to live with this disease, the struggle to make peace with this disease, and how to celebrate and live a full life in spite of this disease.

The relationships I have within the MS community are some of the strongest and most important in helping me to live in a positive way, despite having MS.  I’m fortunate to have made friends, thanks to my MS, who are usually available at any time to stop what they are doing to take my phone call or answer an email.

Many of these friends I have never met in person, but we have that common bond of living with MS that cement our relationships.  More than once my family has looked at me as if I’ve forgotten all the warnings of “stranger danger” and the internet safety while I’ve forged new friendships and comfortable relationships with total strangers.

Being alone with a chronic disease, and particularly with MS, can be bad for us psychologically and often even our physical health can suffer. Creating relationships with others who also happen to live with MS gives us strength in many ways that can’t be measured but is felt deeply. If you don’t already have a special relationship with another person who has MS, I strongly encourage you to join a local support group, an online forum, or even one of the many Facebook groups that focus on multiple sclerosis. Lasting relationships might not develop quickly because those have to be tested over time, but stick with it and I have no doubt you will connect with people of kindred spirit.

*Laura Kolaczkowski was diagnosed with MS in 2008.  She is the co-principal investigator for iConquerMS and the lead patient representative. Her interests have taken her into the world of patient centered research, which is meant to deliver answers that are meaningful to the MS community. She is medically retired from the University of Dayton thanks to her MS, and lives with her husband in Ohio.  She invites you all to join iConquerMS and help solve the mystery of MS.

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Symptoms that Effect Relationships – The Infestation of Fatigue

By Lauren Kovacs

Relationships can be with your spouse, sibling, friends, parents or any living thing really. Sadly, MS contaminates everyone and every thing. It is ever changing. There is usually one symptom that takes the cake.

For me, the winner is fatigue. I swear a cloud of sleepy juice stalks me. It lurks behind corners and lays on me like a wet blanket. It will mess with every relationship and can smother events.

I often have to skip functions because of fatigue. The way I deal with it does not always jive with a particular gathering. Routines with MS work well, but not every event works around your routine. MS is not always flexible. People are happy to let babies nap; however, full grown adults don’t seem to get that same level of understanding.

I take half my “awake” medicine in the morning, nap, and then take the other half. This usually helps, but caffeine gum and coffee are heavily leaned on too. Not the best options.

My spouse knows my routine. Most people very close to me know it. There are times when my routine can’t be followed. Boy Scouts, soccer games, and Taekwondo sometimes jump in the path of my routine. I bend MS, as much as I can, in those situations.

The biggest effect of this is guilt. I fight guilt over missing the Pinewood Derby because I had to be at Taekwondo in the morning. I have guilt because I had to miss a soccer game because I have to nap. My parents had to go instead. It is a ripple. Asking for help often rolls into guilt.

I have to rest and miss some things and rely on my spouse, parents, or whoever. I deal with this balancing act all the time. I try not to tip the scale. Guilt and pride are always battling.

The guilt of asking for help and the pride of doing it myself tip back and forth constantly. People get mad because you didn’t ask for help, but the guilt of being a burden is often worse.

We carry heavy and complex weights to the scale. You have to try and balance that scale.  Do the best you can. Others often do not see this part of MS. Getting those scales to balance can cause fatigue. Take a deep breath, do what you can, and have some chocolate.

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I’ll Be There for You…

Relationships are pretty often thought of strictly in the context of romantic attachments. Especially this time of year as we emphasize love and romance, couples, and all that comes along with it. But there are other relationships we sometimes forget to emphasize. Friends, family, co-workers, support group members, or neighbors. All of these, too, are relationships. It’s difficult in a world where things move a mile a minute and there is so much vying for our attention to remember to think of these other relationships and place some emphasis on them as well. Not just when the stores turn to red and pink and the costs of flowers rise to somewhat ridiculous levels.

While romantic relationships are important and make up a good portion of our understanding of relationships, support and encouragement for many often comes from those they are not romantically linked to. Friends who are there for us when we need a shoulder to cry on or a hand up when we are weak. Support group members who share their own story and listen to ours as we all try to live our lives as best we can and make the most out of all we have. Neighbors or co-workers who help us pass the time during work or who we bond with over community concerns and celebrations. These relationships, just as important as romantic ones, help shape both who we are as well as those around us and are strong bonds during trying and uncertain times. This month in addition to celebrating and relishing any romantic relationship we may be in and acknowledging the importance of this in our lives, let us take some time to also thank and celebrate the other relationships in our lives with people we love… just not in that way. Remind your friends and family what they mean to you or show appreciation and gratitude to your co-workers or support group members. It may not be the stuff of Hallmark movies but I’m sure they’ll really appreciate it that you took the time.

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