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When I Expected Judgment But Got Support After My MS Diagnosis

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I went to a get together that took place before my cousin’s wedding. I had just gotten out of the hospital after having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was wobbly on my feet. I couldn’t wear my black pumps; I had to settle for my black wedges out of fear of falling. For the first time in weeks, I was wearing makeup to hide the dark circles under my eyes.

I walked in to the gathering and immediately felt the stares. I felt eyes on me as I placed a smile on my face. I braced myself, and waited for the inevitable comments I thought might come, like — “How are you feeling?” Exhausted, thanks — I imagined I would say. Or the “You look great!” — I’ve just been through hell, actually, or “I’m glad you’re back on your feet!” — Just barely. I dreaded the thought of dealing with comments like those.

I felt thin. I felt weak. I hadn’t been eating very well and my blood sugars — I’m also a type 1 diabetic — were still running sky high because of the IV steroids. I felt conspicuous. I felt nervous that I was going to lose my balance. I felt my illness hanging over me like black smoke.

But, I walked in and answered questions briefly, and with calculated responses. I stood and chatted; and in a little while, my smile became genuine. I forgot, for a moment, that I had just been in the hospital. I was surrounded by family. I was surrounded by people happy to be living life and celebrating a happy occasion.

I didn’t realize how important it was – having family as a support system. I missed seeing smiles around me. For a moment, I felt normal. I felt supported. I didn’t feel so alone. The hospital is a different kind of animal. Despite my mom being there 24/7 with me, and my friends visiting, I felt so alone. I felt so weak as I waited on physical therapy to walk me around, and as I waited to get my gait back. I felt empty. But with my family, I felt a part of something again.

The following months were difficult, and I just had to appreciate the little moments where I felt normal again. MS is always in the back of my mind, but those little moments help me live my life bravely during the awful times.

Even if not everybody understands what you’re going through, let the people in your support system be there for you. Let them hug you. Let them ask those inevitable questions. Let them be concerned about you. I was nervous that my illness would be in the spotlight. And, it was, for a minute.

But the fear floated away as I was immersed in family, and I knew that there was no judgment or pity coming from those who had known me my whole life. There was only well-founded concern. My family didn’t take the hurt away, but my mind was finally focused on something positive. And positivity, my friends, is something we can never have enough of.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images.

Originally published: February 9, 2017
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