Multiple sclerosis deserves to be complained about

It's not whining when we voice problems, despite our conditioning otherwise

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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My shoelaces keep coming untied, my compression socks are bunched up, I bumped my shins with the vacuum again, and the shower was too hot this morning. Confused? Don’t be. I’m just getting in the spirit of National Wine Day by — oh, wait, I might have read that wrong.

It’s fine, I can salvage this. After all, “in vino veritas” (Latin for “there’s truth in wine”). Thankfully, I can celebrate the correct day every bit as well. Even with my disabilities, I’m still really good at drinking wine. I even had a doctor tell me that the antioxidants, particularly the anti-inflammatory resveratrol found in red wine, might be good for my multiple sclerosis (MS). She seemed to stress the word “might” and said something about moderation, but I only heard “good.”

A column talking about wine might be an improvement over my regular pieces, but it’d be a really short one. What I know about wine is limited to what I happen to like and wouldn’t fill a paragraph. I actually wanted to talk about the word “whine” and the differences among whining, venting, and complaining.

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If you felt your eyes rolling back a little at the beginning of this column, that’s because you had a natural reaction to whining. Whining is trivial, usually nonsensical, and people (even small children, apparently) don’t find it worthy of serious attention. There’s not really a solution to it (other than a properly placed, rolled-up sock), but that’s OK. A distinguishing feature of a whine is that the person doing it isn’t looking for one.

A person venting is also not looking for a solution, but is voicing a legitimate dissatisfaction. This venting can be a good thing. We need that pressure release. It’s not mentally or even physically healthy to smile all day at the “but you look so good!” crowd, only to let it all out later to those closest to you. I know this because I’m guilty of it. Like the doctor said about wine — moderation is the key.

Complaining, unfortunately, is often thought of as a negative thing. That’s too bad because each note your doctor takes and puts in your records is quite literally called a list of complaints. In my records, multiple sclerosis is usually listed as my chief complaint. Complaints are real, honest problems that you voice because you want genuine resolutions to them. A complaint is often the first step on the road to an answer.

I wish I’d understood that when I felt the first symptom of MS, but I didn’t want to “complain.” I wonder if I would’ve been diagnosed years sooner if I’d known the difference between a complaint and a whine. I wonder if it would’ve made a difference.

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re living with multiple sclerosis, by having it or being connected to it in some way. We have a lot of legitimate things to complain about. There’s no solution (yet), so there’s even room for some healthy venting — especially within the MS community, where you’re sure to find real empathy. It’s not exactly a resolution to our disease, but it sure feels good. I wish I’d understood that earlier, too.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Nancy avatar


So true. It’s ironic though because personally I did complain a lot about my symptoms in the beginning, to family physicians and neurologists alike. I was told several times not to worry and there was nothing out of the ordinary going on, so I stopped complaining for quite some time. I wish I hadn’t, because it took another 10 years or so before I was finally diagnosed with MS. Whining is most certainly ok with me!

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Hi Nancy! I'm glad whining is ok with you and i hopr venting is too because I do both and they're bound to show up in a column eventually lol. I'm sure you've noticed that all those are very much in the eye of the beholder. Some beholders think every complaint is a whine. I like to think the difference is whether or not it's genuine (also subjective) and whether a solution is being sought. Unfortunately, there are some that think because there is no solution (cure) for MS, we shouldn't complain about it.


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