Jessica Lovato shares how she found support in a community of fellow multiple sclerosis patients and how that sense of belonging and connection helped her find the strength to fight her own MS. Now, she is an MS peer group leader who runs her own online support group for newly diagnosed MS patients.
Hi, my name is Jessica Lovato, and I was diagnosed with MS in 2020. When I was diagnosed, I was terrified and had the feeling that my life was completely over. I instantly felt the guilt of needing to ask for help and how this disease would impact my family.
MS is an autoimmune condition that feeds on stress and causes inflammation that sends you on the roller coaster of symptoms. Having the right support system is so important, but when, where, and how do you find it?
You find it within your community. At the time of my diagnosis, I felt isolated and was completely terrified of what was to come of my future. I also have a younger sister who was diagnosed in 2016 when she was just 22 years old. Prior to her being diagnosed, we had no knowledge of the disease and had to start our research from the ground up.
MS is unpredictable and can hit you when life is just beginning. Dating, marriage, maintaining a social life — it can be very overwhelming. One of the most positive outcomes of an MS diagnosis, if there are any, is that you gain a sense of community. However, when living with MS, the meaning of community is so much more. It’s about having a sense of belonging and having the strength of connections. With all the professional advice, along with advice from my friends and family, there’s nothing like connecting with those who understand.
So, after a little over a year of my diagnosis, in 2021, I decided to create a space for those who were newly diagnosed through an online support group. And helping others share their experiences living with MS gives me the strength to fight mine.
At times, you may experience moments of defeat, but it’s important not to stay there. Take control of your journey, and be sure to advocate for yourself. Knowledge is power. Ask questions even if you think they might be embarrassing or taboo. Do your own research and follow your instincts. Remember, it’s your body and no one knows it better than you.
Last year, I decided to become a certified yoga instructor to help those who fight the same battles and keep people with MS active. Maintaining a healthy environment for yourself from the outside in is so important.
Whatever path you choose in treating your MS, remember it’s not always one size fits all. There are many different medications, diet plans, strategies, and everything in between.
Just make sure to make healthy choices and do what’s best for you. Eat good wholesome foods, stay active, meditate. Be sure to talk to a friend or stranger when needed, go for a walk, or my personal favorite: journaling. Don’t be afraid to discover a new you. After all, you’re a warrior now. And together we’ll make it through our journeys.
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