If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. So now what?
That is the exact question I Googled shortly after my diagnosis in 2015. I was scared, confused and looking for answers. While there were a ton of excellent resources available, it wasn’t until I actually lived life with MS that I realized exactly how I would and could go on. Read on to see the top five things I’ve discovered during my learning curve and please share any additions in the comments below.
1. A Good Attitude
Being happy is good for your health and this, my dear, is a fact. Sure, it may be hard since you have MS and that’s no picnic in the park during nice weather but there is no benefit in sulking for too long.
Instead, put effort into finding happiness and meaning in your life. This isn’t something that happens overnight and you may have bouts of depression. That’s okay but really the main goal is to work towards a less stressful, happier life. Being Happy with Multiple Sclerosis by Vicki of Health Central provides good tips, as does happiness guru Gretchen Rubin. You must check out her site, The Happiness Project and specifically, her post about tips from memoirs about illness.
This is a tricky one because, while there is a lot of information out there, you can’t always trust what you read – especially on the internet. My doctors love to tell me that. The fact is, being your own advocate is powerful, so do yourself a favor and be well-versed in your illness. Read everything you can and write down your questions so you’re prepared when you meet with your doctor. Your neurologist, the one you trust, should be able to answer all of your questions in a respectful and informative way.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is also a wonderful resource because they not only provide you with conventional treatment information but complimentary options as well.
In addition, MyCounterpane has launched Empowered By…,a first-of-its-kind live video event connecting viewers and guests with groundbreaking innovations and treatments in the health and wellness space. This show offers unprecedented access to scientists, doctors and experts in the medical profession mixed with the true life experience and case studies of people in all stages of MS.
3. A Support System
Unfortunately, I read too often how MS patients lose their friends and find it challenging to keep up with relationships. While I am always sorry to hear that, the good news is that there is hope out there. The internet makes it easy to engage and make deep connections to people you’ve never met. There are many MS-specific online communities, including MyCounterpane. It’s important to be around people who understand. If you’d like to speak to real humans, check out the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to find a meeting near you.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is formed in the body when sun hits the skin and according to a 2015 Swedish study, people with higher levels of Vitamin D in their blood showed a lower risk of developing MS. This isn’t the first study that has looked at Vitamin D and MS (there are many, especially now.) Chances are your neurologist (the one you need) will order a blood test to asses your Vitamin D levels. If you are on the low end of the spectrum, they may prescribe vitamins and supplements. I currently take 4000UI as per my neurologist.
5. A Neurologist
And not just any neurologist but one that you trust. Whether you’ve opted to take disease-modifying drugs or not, a neurologist needs to be on your speed dial. Why? Because your acupuncturist can’t order an MRI to see your progress or prescribe you medicine if you do have a relapse. If you’re looking for a neurologist, check out the American Academy of Neurology. You can filter by subspecialty so you’ll have an easier time locating a multiple sclerosis specialist in your area. We’ve also collected what you should expect in a good neurologist from members of the MyCounterpane community.