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4 'Insider Tips' for People Newly Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

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It’s in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted but your mind won’t switch off. You’re trying to make sense of the news you received earlier today.

Your MRI results were conclusive. The neurologist has determined you have multiple sclerosis. You may be confused and in shock. Or perhaps you were half expecting this news. Either way, hearing these words has been life-changing.

You have so many unanswered questions. And trying to find answers on your phone in the middle of the night feeds your anxiety. Yet faced with an unknown prognosis, you crave certainty. Reassurance that life will be OK.

Then you start to really worry. You’re struggling to keep up with everyday life as it is. How will you be able to cope if your symptoms do get worse? Will you be able to keep up with the demands of your job? And then what about life at home? How will this impact your relationship with your partner, your children, your friends?

Your mind drifts further ahead. Yesterday you had goals and dreams that inspired you, but tonight they taunt you as each assumes good health. And apparently, that is no longer a given. No wonder you are filled with such despondency, and probably a bit of anger as well.

Having lived through my own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis nearly 25 years ago, I get it. These nights when you are alone with your thoughts are the worst.

I want to share with you four “insider tips” to help protect your emotional well-being when dealing with your diagnosis.

1. Stay in the moment, staying centered and focused on what is happening right now.

Sounds simple, I know. But it works. Beware of your mind drifting ahead, trying to fill in the unknowns of your prognosis, worrying that symptoms you read about and the images you see will be part of your future.

2. Take comfort in knowing the intensity of the emotions you are feeling right now will lessen.

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to absorb your new reality. Allow yourself to express the emotions you are feeling now. But remind yourself the intensity of these emotions will slowly dissipate.

3. Only focus on the decisions you need to make now.

Try not to make any life-changing decisions while you are still processing your diagnosis. Instead, focus on shorter-term decisions you need to make now. It may be looking at MS treatment options or reading about your health insurance policy.

4. Hold on to your dreams for the future.

Being diagnosed can create such despondency when you fear having to give up on your dreams for the future. You may feel like there is nothing to look forward to. I encourage you to hold on to your dreams. Don’t try and work out how they will ever happen now that you have MS. Instead, know that in living with MS, unimagined possibilities can still be part of your future.

I also want to be real about life with MS. As once you get through the diagnosis there will be more challenges ahead.
During the first 10 years of living with MS, I had many hospital stays involving being pumped with medication. A few times I then faced months in rehab, petrified I would never walk again. MS relapses provided lots for me to worry about each night! The good news is, I discovered these four insights have also helped me get through these challenges and ultimately create a life that has been conducive to my overall well-being.

Being diagnosed with MS is tough. You are doing so well already, but I implore you to keep going. Keep reminding yourself being diagnosed with MS doesn’t signify the end. Your new journey can still be filled with amazing experiences. I know my life with MS has been. Traveling. Living overseas. Meeting my life partner. Embracing a career change. And a sea change.

I really hope that sharing these “insider tips” will help you navigate through this emotional time, and with any luck, help you sleep a bit better tonight.

Originally published: August 18, 2021
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