Multiple Sclerosis or MS, is a chronic illness which requires a whole lifestyle adjustment that will not only affect the sufferer but their family also. It’s an illness that’s rarely experienced in exactly the same way by different people and, depending on how it affects you, everybody learns to live with it differently.
Chronic fatigue is probably one of the most cited and debilitating symptoms of MS, although this is not experienced by every sufferer. It can come on suddenly or over a period of days and can make even the slightest movement seem impossible. Others experience more of a mental fatigue which can result in memory difficulties and the only solution to any type of fatigue is to rest until it has subsided.
The pain MS sufferers are forced to contend with can be very debilitating on both a physical and emotional level. It can manifest itself as a burning or aching sensation or your skin might become highly sensitive. Some sufferers experience ‘girdling’ which has the effect of squeezing and applying heavy pressure around your torso, like a band that’s being tightened around you.
Others symptoms include pins and needles, paraesthesias which is where you get a tingling feeling, not dissimilar to the sensation of a mild electric shock, muscular spasms, facial and eye pain and pain within the lower back, joints and ligaments. However, these are just a few of the symptoms and every MS sufferer will experience their own unique sense of pain differently. A variety of drugs are available to help deal with this pain so you should see your GP for more information.
Coping With MS
People find different techniques to cope with their own experiences of MS and no one way is the right way – it’s what works best for you. Not only do you have to learn to cope physically but on an emotional level too and some people find that aspect even more difficult to come to terms with.
What is common to all MS sufferers is the need to take exercise which helps with mobility and flexibility and in the reduction of pain. You should speak to your GP before undertaking a regular exercise programme to discuss what would work best for you. Excess body heat can aggravate MS symptoms so even taking a regular walk every day or two might work out better for you than engaging in something more physically demanding. Many sufferers swear by yoga too.
Coping With MS Emotionally
You should make a vow not to let MS become your identity and maintain a steely determination to manage the illness and not let the illness manage you. You’re bound to go through a whole range of emotions and you need to get these out and to talk about your feelings with close friends and loved ones.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you experience negative feelings. They are simply just that – feelings – and the more support you have will enable you to come to terms with the way you’re feeling at any given time and put you in a more rational state of mind to be able to cope. If you have a partner and family, you’ll be able to cope better if you all sit down and discuss how things have changed and what adjustments and roles within the family might be necessary for you all to be able to cope together.
Basically, you all need to rethink about how you determine ‘normal’ now as opposed to previously. You’re all in this together, not just the sufferer of MS, but in talking things though and redefining roles and expectations, then as long as there is open and honest communication and realistic expectations as to what others can do to help the sufferer, it will prevent any resentment from building up later.
Providing you all communicate and you take advice from the relevant experts with regard to your condition, there is no reason why you shouldn’t live a relatively normal life, albeit with challenges, as you come to terms with living with MS as long as you’re determined that the illness isn’t going to beat you.