One of the easiest MS-related traps to fall into is self-imposed isolation. Make no mistake about it -- MS and isolation are a devastating combination.
Nobody plans for it; nobody wants it. It happens so gradually that it can escape our notice completely until it has become a way of life. Being alone can become comfortable, encouraging you to dwell too deeply on your MS symptoms, possibly leading to full-blown depression. Isolation is a dangerous road.
It's not difficult to figure out how or why it happens. The state of our health varies so much from one day to the next that we gradually become more and more unsure of ourselves. We hesitate to commit to social outings, even those we previously enjoyed. We take the easy way out.
That's why it is so important for us to force ourselves to stay involved in as many activities as we can, for as long as we can.
MS support groups and our MS buddies definitely have their place. Nobody can understand what we are going through more than other people with MS. They can be a lifeline. On the other hand, it can be very refreshing to be out among people who have no idea about MS, or to attend a function which has nothing whatsoever to do with MS.
Of course, in order to do that, you first have to make peace with MS. You have to feel comfortable in your own skin. You have to be able to get out there with your cane or your walker, or whatever device will enable you to participate. You have to cut yourself some slack. You have to be willing to be part of the world despite the limitations MS places upon you. Maybe BECAUSE of the limitations MS places upon you. You owe it to yourself to remain an active participant in the world.
Volunteering for charity, joining a book club, or other social groups can provide an entirely new outlook on life. It's perfectly okay to attend a party and leave early if fatigue takes over. One hour at a party is better than not attending at all! If you are homebound, make the effort to invite friends over, even if you just order dinner out.
The trick is to be able to make MS just one small part of who you are, no matter how large the MonSter looms. You never want to have people define you only as the “one with MS.” Ideally, you want people to think of you first and your MS as a side issue.
Every now and then we have to take a long look at our lives and see if we've fallen into that pattern of self-isolation. If we have, it's time to get involved.
Published On: June 16, 2008