Are you living life with multiple sclerosis? If you are or you know someone who is, you know that MS is a difficult, painful, and uncertain, condition to live with on a day to day basis. You either learn to cope with it or it will get the best of you.
What Does it Mean?
What does it mean to live with MS? A diagnosis usually comes after one or more symptoms appears. Many times the symptom is something very noticeable like optic neuritis or extreme fatigue. More often than not, you may have mild, annoying symptoms over a long period of time. These can be things like unexplained balance issues, tingling or numbness in your feet, legs, or arms, and they can come and go. In the beginning, the length of time between the episodes may be so long that the symptoms you have don't seem connected.
Living Day to Day
After the diagnosis is confirmed, the uncertainty of living with MS is one of the main things people living with the actual disease and those caring for someone with it, struggle to deal with on a day to day basis. What symptom am I going to wake up with today? Can I make plans to go to an event next week or next month and be able to keep them? What's going to happen to me - will I end up in a wheelchair when I'm older or possibly even next year?
One of the first actions you can take is to figure out what you are capable of doing physically, then decide what it will take to keep you there as long as possible. In other words, if you are still working - what will it take to keep you at your job for as long as you are able and willing to work? Learning to manage your symptoms may be the first step in this process.
1 - Do you go to bed early enough so that you have adequate rest when you get up to go to work?
2 - Are you able to conserve enough energy so that you can do the work consistently?
3 - Are there medications or alternative treatments that could help alleviate or at least make your symptoms milder?
4 - Could therapy - occupational or physical - help you do your job better and more efficiently?
Long Term Plans
Living with MS can also hinder you from making long term plans. The uncertainty of what will happen from day to day keeps you from planning anything because you don't know whether you will be able to carry them out when the time comes. Believe it or not, it helps if you learn to be flexible early on. If you do decide to make plans, realize that you may have to change them depending on how you feel when the event comes around.
For many people with MS, though, constantly changing plans, on the one hand, or the stress from inflexibility, on the other, can lead to depression. Feelings of inadequacy or guilt can cause you to alienate yourself from others. Why make plans to attend a function when you may have to cancel them yet again? Isn't it better to just stay home, rather than disappoint your family and friends because you may not be able to make it anyway? This staying home alone can lead to feelings of isolation and eventually depression.
The Common Symptom of Depression
This is a very common symptom for people with multiple sclerosis. If you develop depression for whatever reason, you should make it a point to talk to your doctor. Depression is a real symptom and it is treatable. If you're hesitant to use medications, to overcome it, then ask your doctor any alternatives that may be helpful instead. The main thing is, you don't have to live with it.
A Support Group
Having a strong support group of family, friends, and professionals, around you who have your best interest at heart, is one of the best things for a person with MS. Chronic diseases have a way of breaking down a persons resolve. If you have people around you to help you deal with the everyday uncertainties that come up, you are more likely to come through them successfully.
Living life with multiple sclerosis is a day to day challenge. Although it may seem impossible or improbable to those around you, many have done it. With careful management of symptoms; doctors, family, and friends, who understand where you're coming from; a long life with MS can be achieved. And sometime during that lifetime, a cure may come along that will end the suffering for those who already have multiple sclerosis and for those yet to be diagnosed.