Fear is not listed as an MS symptom, but it could be. Many of the questions and posts submitted here on Health Central show degrees of uncertainty when facing life with such a complicated condition as MS. There are so many possible symptoms, symptom clusters, and locations where they can show up. I think the worst MS symptom is unpredictability, shadowed by fear and bolstered by things we cannot change. You cannot control what happens, but you can control how you react.
Much of fear and MS is related to the unknown. Afraid you have symptoms that mean you may have MS? MSfocus.org has a long list of conditions that mimic MS, and many of these conditions can be successfully treated. The Internet is extremely valuable and an ocean of information, but even today much is unknown about MS. You can do your research carefully, find sources you trust, and rely on the advice from your health care professionals.
A cheerful frame of mind, reinforced by relaxation… is the medicine that puts all ghosts of fear on the run. ~George Matthew Adams
I remember my own early days with MS when I was just learning to confront my own fears. When I was first diagnosed, I felt relieved that my occasional episodes of strange symptoms finally had a name. I knew why my knee would suddenly be numb, and then, again, not. I understood when I suddenly had blurry or even double vision. As I began to learn more about MS, I realized it was capable of controlling my body, mind and emotions. That is scary. I have read stories written by others who also go through an initial feeling of relief that soon makes way for some level of fear.
We all have fear, but there are varying levels and many types of fear. Sometimes it could be as simple as concern, while other times the fear is so intense it could actually be debilitating. What is this fear that relates so closely with MS? I have always heard FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real or False Expectations Appearing Real. The key word is "false." It is not so much false when MS is concerned, just unknown or uncertain. The unpredictability in the course of the disease feeds the fear. "What if" questions are in the minds of MSers as well as the people who love and care for them.
There are techniques that help guard against anxiety and stress caused by fear. If ever my fear begins to approach anxiety, I take a deep breath and calm down. There are relaxation techniques that guard against negative thoughts. Then there are meditation and simple Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques. I relax and refuse to let fear take over my life.
MS may dictate a detour, but with patience and planning, and maybe a bit of creativity, it can often be done. There are so many people with MS who do all kinds of things to enrich their lives while still taking time to vigorously treat their MS. Let me offer as an example: my online friend, Michael B. Gerber. He reviewed his year in 2010 when he was hospitalized but still found time for so much more, including travel to Australia, cruise along the Mexican Riviera, and participate in MS fundraising. Wow. Take your positive attitude and make happy plans to do what you can. It is important to maintain your quality of life and not to lose the spirit that is you.
“Fear is that little darkroom where negatives develop.”
Notes and Links:
- FEAR acronyms - False Expectations Appearing Real is the acronym I have heard, but there are several others used in different situations.
- Merely Me wrote about fear getting the upper hand.
- Julie wrote Fear and MS. She refers to fear as her "shadow twin." I borrowed her concept.
- Essay describing causes and types of fear and How Not to Let Fear Control Your Life.