Explaining Multiple Sclerosis to Family and Friends
Fighting through multiple sclerosis is difficult, and it can be especially troubling when family and friends do not understand what’s going on. However, there are ways to explain it to them that can help.
Why understanding MS is not easy, even for people who have it
Even for those who have multiple sclerosis, it can be hard to understand. This is largely due to there being no cause, cure or predictability of progression. Of course, there are symptoms and manifestations that occur at a higher frequency, but the way they impact patients varies tremendously. For some, symptoms are constant, while for others they only occur from time to time. Some people with multiple sclerosis do not even show signs of it.
As a result, it can be hard for those with the disease to explain it to those around them, especially because what their friends might have heard very likely is not the same exact situation for them. Often, people will confuse MS with other conditions as well, meaning that you will not only have to explain what the condition is like, but you will have to dismantle their preconceived notions as well.
Of course, not everyone chooses to disclose their multiple sclerosis, and that is a personal choice that everyone has the right to make. However, if you do decide that you want to explain your condition to others, there are certain tips to keep in mind.
Personalize your story
As with any other discussion, this cannot be "one size fits all." You should not discuss the situation with your mother the exact same way that you would your boss.
Part of making sure that you are telling the person in the correct manner is to first gage how much they know about the condition. If they have never heard of multiple sclerosis, it may actually be easier because you will know you have to tell them everything from start to finish. If they already know a bit about it (but make sure their knowledge is accurate) then you can proceed to discuss your personal experience with it.
Also keep in mind what kind of learner the individual is. Maybe some people will respond best by simply listening to your story and experiences. However, others might be most affected by a brochure, video, website, or even accompanying you to a seminar, if that is something you are both interested in. Fortunately, there are already many of these resources available - specifically for the purpose of teaching people about multiple sclerosis. Have a child in your life that you are not sure how to break the news to? Fortunately, there are even videos, brochures, and newsletters that are specifically designated for young ones, that really break the condition down without being too overwhelming or scary. You may even find that the adults in your life could respond well to these!
Read on to learn more about how to talk to your family and friends about multiple sclerosis.