My Resolution: Being More Assertive

Karen O’Shea
Written by
Karen O’Shea

Anyone with multiple sclerosis is well aware of the range of emotions that comes with diagnosis. Each day we can face a whole range of different moods. I can only imagine how difficult this is for the people around us, but sometimes we deserve a bit of understanding, too.

Early on in diagnosis, you have to learn to bite your tongue. You will meet plenty of people who don’t know how to react to your diagnosis. Try to have patience with them. Those people are struggling to know what to say. At first you may find what they say upsetting or unsympathetic, but trust me, in the future, you will laugh about it. I have had conversations about this with others I know with MS and it really is funny the ludicrous things people say.

Although I find this easy enough to deal with, I have a hard time understanding when people expect too much from me. I know (hand on my heart) I could cancel something with any of my friends who also have MS, and they would be completely understanding. But with other friends and family, I don’t get the same reaction. What I’ve encountered on many occasions instead is: “But I haven’t seen you in ages,” or “That’s the second time you’ve cancelled.”

I frequently find myself taking things on to keep the peace. How silly! When I am wiped out the next day because I gave in, where are they? The next time I’m going to ring them up and say, “The laundry needs doing and if you could bring me some lunch that would be great. I find myself unable to do it as you browbeat me yesterday into seeing you when I really wasn’t able!” I’m sure my mobile would be quiet for a while if I pulled that one!

That’s the thing about some people like me, living with MS. We feel guilty because sometimes we just can’t do everything the world would like us do. Lately, I found myself attending an event because it had been noted that I was “making no effort” to go to said events. So I went, but spent the next two days exhausted because I pushed myself. And for what?

Some days it’s an achievement to put on a pair of socks or to walk to the front door, but it is an achievement nonetheless, however small it may seem. On the days I can do these things, I feel like I could take on the world. But when I am exhausted because a friend decided I should go shopping for seventeen hours to get a pair of shoes, I feel like a deflated balloon.

I refuse to live this way anymore. From now on I am going to be much more assertive, and people can take it or leave it. That’s life with MS. Eight years into it, and I am still learning!

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