In this blog our Counsellor's answers your MS relationship questions for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020
As human beings, we have an instinctive need to be in relationship with other people. This includes those relationships we have with our family and friends, as well as people we are in contact within a more general sense. Relationships can be complex, some nourish us and bring warmth and others are more challenging. Sometimes, all can be difficult to navigate and it goes without saying that having a condition like MS can really complicate things! In this article, I hope to offer some practical suggestions around some of the most common difficulties people have shared around the impact of MS on their relationships.
I feel like such a let-down when it comes to socialising with my friends. I cancel plans or don’t engage fully because my fatigue and pain make it so difficult for me. What can I do?
It can be difficult to be fully present when your head feels foggy or you are struggling to think about anything apart from the pain you are feeling, physically or emotionally. Think about how it would be for you to communicate your difficulty with your friends and let them know what you need. Could it be that something less tiring would be better for you? Or having a boundary around the amount of time you can be with them might help. On the days when fatigue is higher, maybe consider talking to friends on the phone instead of physically meeting.
I get frustrated when people close to me want to talk about how I am or make an assumption about how I’m managing my emotions. This causes me to not want to be with people. How can I help this?
Communication is key here. It can be so difficult to allow yourself to feel vulnerable and talk about how you feel, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking a deep breath and letting those closest to you know that things are difficult can open up that dialogue and if nothing else lets them know that you are finding things tough. Also, it can be useful to let people know what you need. Do you need regular hugs, space or is there something practical they can do to support you?
Talking to people feels too much for me right now and yet I know that people can’t read my mind. Is there anything else I can do to communicate?
Yes! You could try to write a letter if this is something you feel able to do or record a voice note to share with them. Others choose to represent their feelings through art or creativity, or music or song. Sometimes, people can really resonate with a poem or a blog that they’ve read. You could share this with your family or friends to let them understand how things are for you.
My relationship with my children has been impacted by my diagnosis and we don’t talk about my MS. What can I do?
Sometimes, friends and family do not want to ask any questions or bring up subjects which we may find upsetting. This can make it difficult to have an open dialogue. If you feel that it would be okay for you to answer any questions or talk about how things are for you, it can be useful to communicate that it is okay for them to ask.
MS-UK Counselling is here for anybody living with MS and offers space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings in a professional, supportive, and non-judgemental therapeutic space. You can register your interest for this service at www.ms-uk.org/counselling