MS Is the Authoritarian Influencer In My Life

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” (Robert Heinlein) or rather, “Handicap your MS diagnos-ees by making their lives challenging.” (me, Dianne Scott). That has been my experience for the past 13 years.

Which parenting style represents MS?

Picture this: A mother is at the stove finishing dinner when her child enters the kitchen expressing his hunger and asking for a sandwich though dinner is soon to be served. The answer, for obvious reasons, is no, but the child passionately protests. Four parental styles will approach the matter as follows: Permissive parents, unwilling to commit to not granting his desire for instant gratification, will likely give in to the protesting child. A hands-off/uninvolved parent will probably not engage or have a ‘whatever’ attitude, whereas an authoritative parent will lovingly maintain the ‘no,’ but with an explanation because they feel it’s important that the child understands why. The authoritarian parent will harshly reiterate that there’ll be no sandwich with a look that dares further discussion. Now, that? Right there? That is MS. The harsh, “It is what it is. Period” type of influence on the lives of those under its thumb.

If MS had a permissive influence on my life

I would imagine if MS were permissive, with the right amount of whining and complaining, there’d be no pain, loss of fine and gross motor skills, and all of the other symptoms and difficulties that are associated with having this disease. Agreeing that it’s just much too much to continue making us endure such challenges, it would cease raging through our brain, nerves, and spine, granting us instant gratification... hence, giving us our lives back. The children raised permissively tend to grow into creative, adventurous, self-assured individuals since they’ve had so much freedom to ‘do their own thing’ with no reserve. As one with MS, I would love for MS to have this style of influence on my life. Living free and carefree with no chronic disease governing my life? That’d certainly do me quite well. But there’s nothing permissive about MS.

A lifelong disease

Hands-off/uninvolved parents have an emotional detachment from their children. They provide basic needs (clothes, food, shelter), but are void of other crucial elements such as nurturing, love, or affection. These children are left to their own devices early on and often grow to have difficulty developing coping skills and healthy relationships. I recall the day I was diagnosed with MS. "Chronic and debilitating," I was told, "but not fatal except possibly during advanced stages of progression when it’s possible that related complications could be fatal." So, MS was saying, “I’m here, you basically have what you need – life – so deal with it.” From there, I was left to fend for myself. Assistive devices, DMDs, maintenance medications, etc. in addition to the task of seeking ways in which to cope, to manage my life with this debilitating mess of a disease in order to live the life it has so graciously afforded me.

Authoritative vs. authoritarian

Some parents are no-nonsense, but with love, nurturing, and wanting their child to understand that they may make decisions they don’t like, but they’re made for their own good. This is known as authoritative parenting. How might it relate to MS? It wouldn’t, because this disease doesn’t care about what’s best for whoever it afflicts. Its arrival is to take, attack, and destroy. Now, authoritarians believe in dominating their children through rigid parenting which can result in undesirable impacts that hinder the necessary attributes needed to thrive. Sound familiar? It does for me. If your body and/or mind is attacked viciously, thriving would be arduous.

We can overcome

Those with multiple sclerosis are the byproducts of an authoritarian disease. As a controlling, harsh, and debilitating disease, MS can negatively impact our emotions, self-esteem, and self-confidence through its myriad of symptoms. But just like there are children who beat the odds, we can, too. For example, by not giving in to our plight, exercising, eating healthy, finding hobbies, addressing our mental health needs, we won’t have to adhere, but will be equipped to add to the quote “Handicap your MS diagnos-ees by making their lives challenging… BUT despite said challenges, they can overcome and not succumb!"

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