Multiple Sclerosis and Love

As February is considered by many to be the month of love, I thought I'd share a couple of thoughts about that very subject. I'm no expert on the subject, but I do know that it is easy to let MS taint many things that we hold dear. Many times the people in our lives also feel derailed and unsure of things because of our MS. Here are a couple of my suggestions for allowing love to help you (and others):
Let your loved ones in, but try not to drag them down (too often). I think it is important that my husband knows what I am feeling, so I share with him what is going on with me and my symptoms. He usually has already figured out most of it by the time that I tell him. He is very patient and listens when I want to complain, even when I want to whine. He will listen while I have a tantrum that includes a flurry of  "it's not fair" and "why me?" moments. I do feel that sometimes you really need to let it all out.
However, I have also noticed that if I go on too long about my mental and physical anguish, I not only bum out my husband, I feel worse – almost like I am stuck in this bad place. I think the best policy is to share what is bothering you, maybe even cry a little, then pull it together the best you can and see what the rest of the day holds.
When you are feeling good, celebrate those moments with your loved ones. It is true that many of us feel crappy a lot of the time. However, there are times when we feel less crappy – even good. Don't waste those moments. Grab them and share them. Be spontaneous. Tell your family that you want to go on a picnic or to a movie or for a walk. Work a puzzle or make a cake with your children. Have a conversation that doesn't have anything to do with MS. I can pretty much guarantee you that they will remember and treasure these moments. They will give you something to hang on to (and strive towards) during the not-so-good days.
Ask your loved ones about themselves. There are some days that the MS may seem bigger than we are and it is hard to think of anything else. Other people have their own problems, though. Make sure that you ask your loved ones what is going on in their lives. Try your best to really listen. If they don't feel good, show sympathy (and try not to use this moment to tell them what it is like to really not feel good). If they are nervous about something, share a story about a time when you were nervous and it all turned out okay. Or maybe just encourage your loved ones to talk while you listen quietly and supportively, making sure that they know that they count, too.
Tell people that you love them. Do this sincerely and often. Don't wait until you are feeling good or when you feel bad or when the moment is just right. Just tell your loved ones that they are loved. It makes the world a nicer place.
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Julie Stachowiak, PhD

Julie is the author of the Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto, the winner of the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the Health Category. She is an epidemiologist who is also a person living with MS, Julie has an in-depth understanding about current research and scientific developments around MS. She also has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations and anxiety surrounding the disease, as she had MS for at least 15 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2003 and has had several relapses since her diagnosis.