Living Well With Multiple Sclerosis

There are likely many instances when you feel powerless over your MS and the harm it inflicts on your body. But by gaining knowledge about your disease, striving for a healthy lifestyle, accepting your limitations, and allowing loved ones to share your MS burden, you can gain some of that power back—and ultimately live well with multiple sclerosis.

Gaining Knowledge About Multiple Sclerosis

Gaining knowledge about MS will help you become a partner in your MS care, along with your neurologist and the rest of your MS health team. That being said, learning about your MS does not mean you have to study all the intricacies of it (unless you want too). MS and the biology behind it are quite complex, even for many scientists and doctors. Instead, start with the basics of MS, like common symptoms, and how it's diagnosed and treated.

As you learn more about your chronic illness, you will uncover the truth behind MS misconceptions. For example, you may be surprised to learn that MS does not affect fertility or increase your chances of having a pregnancy-related complication. In addition, MS is not a death sentence, and activities like exercise can actually improve your life with MS. This information can be empowering, allowing you to make decisions in life based on facts, not myths.

In addition to reading about MS, you can gain knowledge through a connection with others. The good news is that there are a number of reliable MS organizations, like the National MS Society, that offer support groups. Social media, like Facebook and Pinterest, are other ways to become connected to the MS community.

This being said, reading or talking to others about your disease can be difficult and tug at your or your loved one's heart strings. Take it slow and do what you can. Caring for your MS is a journey, and that includes how you process and learn about it.

Creating a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the most challenging aspects of MS is its unpredictability. People with MS do not know day to day how they are going to feel, like whether a relapse will strike, or whether chronic symptoms like fatigue or pain will ruin their work or social plans.

That being said, there are many aspects of life that a person with MS can control. These include ensuring adequate sleep and a well-balanced diet, avoiding smoking, coping healthily with stress, and engaging in healing therapies like yoga.

Here are some specific strategies on how to optimize your health and wellbeing while living with MS:

In addition to MS affecting your daily living, it will also impact your relationships with others like your partner, children, friends, family members, and work colleagues. The good news is that this impact does not have to be negative. There are ways to effectively manage your relationships, even amongst the many challenges of your disease.

Remember, caring for your MS is a precious balance, but in the end, you can live fully and happily with it. Don't fret if some days you find yourself overwhelmed by your MS symptoms and consumed with how to manage them. You are human, and it's normal to worry and feel negative emotions at times like anger, sadness, or guilt.

That being said, if these days are becoming more frequent, it may be a sign to reach out for help from your doctor, a trained psychologist, a spiritual advisor, or a close friend.

Being Your Own Advocate

How your MS feels or manifests itself is quite unique for each individual. For example, you may use a scooter due to spasticity in your legs and worry about accessibility issues in your community. Or you may suffer from MS-related speech problems and avoid social situations because of it.

Still, others may suffer from "invisible" symptoms including fatigue, pain, depression, or uncomfortable parethesias—symptoms that are not as visibly apparent to others as, say, walking or speech problems.

Whatever it is, acknowledging your own MS struggles and accepting your limitations is a critical first step to becoming your own advocate. That said, being your own advocate can be difficult.

For example, maybe you deal with MS-related fatigue that robs you of the precious energy you need to take care of your children and work, creating feelings of frustration and vulnerability. Healthy coping strategies can drastically minimize that fatigue, but taking action to conserve your energy is important too. That means sometimes declining social or family gatherings so you can rest. At times others may not understand you fatigue and its implications—and that's OK. They need to adjust to and learn to accept your disease just as much as you do.

Learn to listen to your own body and trust your instincts. Be kind to yourself and proactive in your care first—others will likely follow. It's also always a good idea to seek guidance from your MS health team about navigating the social and emotional consequences of your MS symptoms.

For Loved Ones of Those With MS

Whether you are the primary caregiver of a person with MS, or more peripherally involved in a loved one's day-to-day life, you are part of their MS journey. This can be challenging, especially as you long to ease your loved one's symptoms and/or worry about his or her future.

The good news is that there are ways to help loved ones with MS, whether they are newly diagnosed, experiencing a relapse, or simply having a bad day. For instance, speaking with empathy is a great way to make your loved one feel better. Examples of statements of empathy are, "I'm so sorry you are going through this" or "I see you are in a lot of pain today."

It's important to understand that your loved one with MS does not expect you to fix unpleasant symptoms or cure his or her disease. Knowing that someone is listening and cares—that they are not alone in their physical or emotional discomfort—is what's most important. A simple hug or a listening ear goes a long way.

As a loved one with MS, you need to remember to care for yourself too, especially if you are a caretaker or partner. You also have physical and psychological needs, and require rest, relaxation, and an emotional outlet (like a support group or friend) to discuss worries and get your mind off MS.

A Word From Verywell

With knowledge, engaging in healthy lifestyle habits, personal advocacy, and help from others, you can feel and be well living with MS. Remember, your MS is a slice of your life, but not the whole pie.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources