How to Survive the End of the Year When You Have MS
The end of the year is incredibly difficult. We already have to put up with more than others because of our MS.
In addition to that, the weather changes, the clocks turn back, and there is less sunlight, meaning vitamin D is in short supply unless we opt for supplements. All of these changes can exacerbate symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and cognitive problems.
This time of year also sticks us into more encounters with people who don’t understand our illness. Despite the pandemic, there are far more social interactions than usual, including Zoom-hosted or physically distanced parties, special meals to celebrate the holidays, and gatherings with family we may not have seen in years. This can cause some serious sensory overload and have a severe impact on our mental health and MS symptoms.
It is exhausting to be around people who are unfamiliar with MS, explain it to them, and relive our diagnosis over and over. Because we see so many people, we often hear that classic line: “I’m tired, too.”
I have considered creating and handing out a special pamphlet called “Things I Am Tired of Explaining” instead.
In addition, the spread of cold and flu germs is widespread, and those of us with MS and compromised immune systems inevitably catch something. I think I’ve caught at least a cold every winter except one.
Apart from explaining a million times over why my tired is different from your tired, the most challenging part is that I look healthy, and people forget I’m ill. Family and friends are often surprised when I don’t want another alcoholic drink or when I start falling asleep at 9:30 p.m. Many people try to guilt us into things at this time of year, too. They say, “Oh, come on, just one more. It’s Christmas!” or “Stop being a party pooper and join in. It’s Thanksgiving!”
Explaining to a small child why Auntie Jess has to stop playing princesses and lie down for a moment never goes well. I don’t have children yet, so I haven’t had to figure out how to explain MS to kids. Knowing myself, I would probably write and illustrate a children’s book showcasing a unique character that acts differently as a way to explain MS to children. (If any publishers are reading this and think that’s a good idea, please get in touch!)
For now, I tell my niece I’m too tired because it’s easier. Sometimes my niece understands and respects this far more than adults do. How do you explain your MS to children?
Is there a way to make this whole thing easier? It’s important to be as transparent as possible and remember that people don’t know any better most of the time. It’s easy to get annoyed at them for not understanding, but unless we keep telling them, how will they ever understand? Don’t get me wrong, it’s super frustrating and we shouldn’t have to put up with it, but we do.
How do you manage expectations from family and friends at the end of the year? Let me know in the comments below!
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