Life Changes with MS: The Immediate Impact

Having Multiple Sclerosis means facing many life changes.  Some happen slowly over time and some are immediate.  I wrote previously about being thankful for being diagnosed young because the changes were easier to deal with.  This is still true but there may be a little more struggle behind that thanks than I let on…

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The hardest changes to deal with are the immediate.  They come at you fast and hard and you have no choice in the matter.  Of course the obvious life change is dealing with having MS.  I can’t even begin to describe the coping process this requires but there is a definite change to your lifestyle that has to happen the moment you are diagnosed.  All of a sudden every aspect of your life requires thought towards your MS and consideration of what is best for your health.

   The next immediate change I was hit with was dealing with continued healthcare.  Not only did I now have an entire team of professionals caring for me but I also had an array of routine checkups, tests, and day-to-day management of my disease to adjust to.  For me personally it was easy to accept the idea of a lifetime of medical treatment but the hard part was the day-to-day management.  Day-to-day management meant medication and medication meant needles.  I’ve never been too squeamish about having blood drawn or getting a vaccination but giving myself an injection was a whole new ballgame.  They sent a nurse to train me on administering my injections but it made the physical act of doing so no easier to endure.  It took me a good 6 months and a few comical moments with my backside face up and my future mother-in-law before I could handle it.  All jokes aside a strange thing happened when I was finally able to give myself my injection; I suddenly felt complete ownership of my disease and control over it.  At that point the only downsides to my disease management now were all the side effects.  I gained weight from the steroid treatments, got flu-like symptoms from my injections, and experienced emotional effects of both the disease and medications.

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I felt the changes in my emotions immediately as well.  As one would expect the steroid treatments I received, even for my first attack before diagnosis, sent me in an emotional whirlwind within hours.  In fact, on the second day of my very first round of IV infusions I kicked my fiancé out of my hospital room in annoyance and was in tears begging him not to leave me before he even reached the door.  I had to quickly learn to keep myself in check and bite my tongue often.  The irrational emotions didn’t stop with my expressions towards others though.  I often felt depressed and anxious and went through a quieter inner struggle.  These emotions were almost crippling and there were even a few times I was so over come with waves of anxiety all I could do was stop and breath until it passed.  I tried going to counseling for a while and even took some anti-anxiety medication which helped some but in the end I decided that particular course of treatment wasn’t the beMS Blog, Multiple Sclerosis Blog, Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis, Multiple Sclerosis Lifestylest for me. I’m not saying therapy and medications are bad in any way or that they don’t have the capability to help many, it just wasn’t The right treatment for me.  What really helped me cope with this change was joining a support group.  The group  is specifically for young people with MS that are all around the same place in their life as me.  Discussing my feelings and experiences with others who are going through them with me is far more personally therapeutic.  While listening to others speak and helping them through struggles I am often able to work through struggles of my own.  Even all these years later I always feel way more in balance after a good meeting with my group.

The changes in my health, both physical and mental, also immediately put a strain on my personal relationships.  I had several groups of friends I had known since high school and spent time with on a daily basis along with my fiancé(then boyfriend) and a family I was incredibly close with.  Having MS meant adapting a more selfish lifestyle to protect my health but in the process also meant distancing all my relationships.  I needed my rest and space to cope and deal but at the same time the last thing I wanted was to be totally alone.  Like I talked about in my last post, maintaining a healthy social life has been a delicate balancing act filled with much sacrifice but it’s been worth it to keep the people I love in my life.  I’m thankful that my only real relationship losses have been mere acquaintances and my good friends have remained as such even if I don’t spend all the time I used to with them.  Obviously my fiancé decided he was in it for the long haul too, even after my Linda Blair moments in the hospital!  My family relationships changed in a weird way but it has all turned out to be for the better.  I distanced myself in different ways in the beginning to be able to cope on my own without having to worry about my empathy for their coping with my having MS.  That was where the selfish part came in.  In the end it was my empathy that allowed me to realize that I had to let them in a little bit in order for them to cope with it and be able to help me continue on as well.  In the grand scheme of things I would have to say that while my MS diagnosis has caused huge changes to my social lifestyle and relationships, it has strengthened and solidified those relationships in many ways.

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Some of those amazing friends that have always been there and myself  🙂

These immediate life changes are the toughest to deal with.  MS dictates many changes to your lifestyle but these first ones happen all at once whether you’re ready or not.  You have some choice in the matter with slower progressing changes like your exercise routine and eating habits because they are only choice alterations you make.  The immediate changes happen all at once and so completely that you have to learn to think and deal on the fly.  I can choose to workout and how to do it or not but I can’t choose to not have MS.

Stay tuned for more on the life changes that happen later!

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