Disclosing Your Diagnosis: Is There a Right Way to Do It?
For many of us, odd symptoms and strange feelings may fill our lives for years before we are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Others may be diagnosed more quickly, which flips our world overnight.
I was diagnosed in three days. However it happens, a diagnosis usually comes as a colossal shock to the system.
As if this new reality weren’t hard enough to accept, dealing with awkward questions from others can become too much to bear. When we’re newly diagnosed, we may not know how to feel about our illness, let alone how to explain it to someone else.
Extended family or co-workers may ask how we are, or they may beat around the bush and say something like, “Your [family member/colleague] mentioned you’d been ill recently. Are you, you know, feeling any better now?” In truth, [family member/colleague] probably already told them the whole story, and they’re after the juicier details. You know those people who want more information than they’re entitled to?
Whenever anyone asked me how I felt after my diagnosis, I always had a sinking feeling that I would have to relive my diagnosis all over again. Doctors never tell you about the emotional impact of diagnoses.
The amount of detail I relayed to each person depended on how much information I felt strong enough to give. Mostly, I tossed it aside with an “Oh, yeah. I’m fine. Really. Nothing to worry about.” Oftentimes, it seemed that people wanted to hear everything. They wanted me to relive every tiny detail of what happened, and I was not down for that. Why do people think it’s OK to ask probing questions about something as personal as your health?
And what is the “right” way to handle this?
I’m sorry to say that I don’t think there is a “right” way to tell someone about a diagnosis. There are just different ways, which may or may not result in a good outcome. The answer you choose to give people is up to you. It will probably depend on how much energy and patience you have at the time, and on your mental and physical state.
I hated it when people asked me questions like, “How are you coping with that MS thing now?” at a bus stop, in a clothing store, or in another public place where I could not freely burst into tears without being branded as the town lunatic. After my diagnosis, it took nearly four years for me to be able to speak about MS without crying.
A diagnosis is a significant experience. I’m not saying a person is doing something terrible by caring enough to inquire about your health. Sometimes it’s just the timing or depth of detail requested that’s a little off.
How and when you decide to tell people is up to you. To this day, when I meet someone new or run into someone I haven’t seen in a while, disclosing my diagnosis is always on my mind.
How do you approach the subject of your diagnosis? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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.