MS diagnosis and your emotions

It's normal to go through many different emotions after finding out that you have multiple sclerosis (MS). Each person experiences this process differently. Find out more about what you might experience and how to cope.

"You have MS." After your doctor says these words, you may not remember much from the rest of the visit. Like many people, you may feel a sense of shock and numbness when you first learn of your diagnosis. Things may seem like a blur for a while, until you have had a chance to process the information.

Then, you may go through a series of emotions called the stages of grief. These stages often occur in people who have suffered a loss or experience a change that threatens their sense of self, such as the diagnosis of a chronic disease like MS. Not everyone goes through each stage, and they may spend different periods of time in each stage. But many people find that they experience these emotions. They are a normal part of the coping process.

In time, some of them will go away and the rest can be turned into more positive channels. It may take a couple of years to go through all of the stages. The stages include denial (refusing to accept that you have MS), anger, bargaining (with another person involved; God, fate, or a higher power), depression, and finally, acceptance of the condition as a part of your life

You may also feel other emotions, such as fear about MS or your future, frustration with MS or the medical system, or guilt about needing to receive help from others. These emotions are not easy to go through. But there are ways to cope:

Stay connected. Find something, whether it's your work, your network of friends and family, your spirituality, your hobbies, or your volunteer program, to keep you connected to and engaged in the world. This will help you keep MS in perspective and acknowledge it as just one part of your life.

Talk about your fears and concerns. Find someone with whom you can talk frankly. This person could be a family member, friend, health care professional, or someone from a support group. Getting your concerns and fears out in the open will make them seem less frightening.

Laugh. Keeping your sense of humour will stop MS from getting the best of you. Find something to laugh about every day.

Use your support network. Don't feel guilty about asking friends and family for help. You can also join a support network for people with MS. To find a group near you, contact your local MS society.

Get help. If you are having trouble coping, don't be afraid to seek professional help. Your doctor or local MS society can help direct you to a counsellor who can help you.

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