Active multiple sclerosis: 9.5 years
Friends Lost: 3
Lessons learned about friendship: Oh, countless!
Friendships are difficult to keep afloat even in the calmest of seas. Add MS to the mix, with its giant suitcase full of symptoms, and you get a full blown storm just when you needed an easy sail.
There are aspects of life that MS changes. Friendship can be one of them. How can I tell my friends that my fatigue is so bad that I can’t get up the stairs sometimes? To me a staircase can look as daunting as Mount Everest. Will they understand? Will they ever hold it against me? It’s a difficult thing to explain and an even more difficult notion to reconcile.
My advice: Everyone deserves friendship, love and fulfilment in life. And your MS diagnosis doesn’t change that. Involve your friends in your treatment plan. Tell them there will be times when you will need their support but that you are still you. Be honest with them and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re a friend of someone with MS, research, but don’t generalise. Because of the vast variety of symptoms people with MS can exhibit, one person might have a certain set of symptoms and another may have entirely different ones. There’s just no normal here, don’t try and find one.
Also, be sure to talk and to ask questions, don’t just assume you know everything there is to know about the disease. Not even researchers and neurologists know everything there is to know. They’re still learning. So am I.
Try asking your friend with MS what they need from you, from your friendship, and what they as a friend can do to be there on bad days.
And at the end of the day, if all else fails, just hug. A hug can mean the world, even if you’re unable to express what you’re feeling in words.