Most men and women who learn they have multiple sclerosis (MS) find the news difficult to accept. Although there are treatments that can lessen the symptoms, there is no cure for this neurological disease, and its course can be unpredictable. Moreover, MS typically causes its first symptoms when people are in their 20s and early 30s, a time when they are starting families and developing their careers. Fear or self-consciousness about this disease and new disabilities that it may cause can cause some with MS to isolate themselves from other people. A better strategy for living with this disease is to learn as much as you can about MS and to build connections through available resources.
Depression occurs in 20 percent to 60 percent of people with MS. Some experts believe depression develops because of the unpredictability of the disease and how difficult and exhausting it can be to live with a chronic illness. Others believe that the MS causes a chemical imbalance that produces clinical depression. Whatever its cause, depression can be controlled with a combination of medication and therapy.
Getting the help you need
Soon after you are diagnosed with MS, your doctor can help you to learn the ways that treatment can minimize the activity of your disease. Still, it is difficult for people with MS to adjust to the unpredictable nature of symptoms, when episodes do occur. Some people with MS advise, a good strategy to compensate for this feeling of vulnerability is to be conscious of the control you have in areas outside of your medical health. From choosing which movie to rent to repainting your kitchen in sunny yellow, you can exercise your free will in countless ways every day. Here are some other suggestions for living better with MS.
Talk about it
Many men and women with MS find that joining a support group can help them deal with the disease. MS support groups give members the chance to learn more about the disease, to exchange feelings and ideas, to make new friends, and to get out of the house and socialize.
Others prefer discussing important issues one-on-one with another person who has MS. Still others prefer to get their support through work, church or raising a family. What's important is to share your feelings; denying your problems will only worsen your attitude. (For a list of support groups and buddy programs, see "You've Got A Friend.")
Many people with MS keep a positive attitude by reaching out to others — through work, volunteering or caring for family.
You've Got A Friend
Here are some sources to help you connect with someone who has MS for friendship and support: