Two women are sharing a gesture of friendship. One has her hand on the other's shoulder while she is sharing a story close to her heart.

To Tell Or Not Is Your Choice

How many of you struggled with disclosing your diagnosis? Family, friends, coworkers, and other associates were all on the list for people with whom we could share the news. There might be some who were privy to your medical journey and who were supportive along the way. Maybe there is a co-worker who really had your back when something funky was going on. Perhaps there are members of your temple or mosque or synagogue or church who were supremely loving and supportive. Whomever the "they" might be, there were certainly people who felt entitled to an update. We might have felt that they were, or are, entitled to know what is going on with you. Do not be pressured into making this choice a must-do. No matter when you were diagnosed and no matter whom you have already told, disclosure is always, always your choice.

Just because other people disclose doesn't mean you have to

When people publicly disclose their medical status, they are given praise. How many online articles have we seen in which one celebrity or another announces that they have an illness? Some media will choose to highlight their bravery in stepping forward to give voice to an illness that may have a stigma associated. Some will use it as a springboard for further discussion or education. Regardless of circumstance, there is a near-universal appreciation for sharing one's personal truth.

When Selma Blair revealed she had MS

Most recently, Selma Blair shocked the movie world in 2018 when she explained that it was multiple sclerosis that affected her ability to work consistently and was responsible for her symptoms. Her unquestionable bravery can never be discounted. Her openness as shared on her Twitter account and Instagram is nothing short of inspirational. Ms. Blair is on one end of the MS spectrum along with singer Tamia Hill, Fox Business News host Neil Cavuto, actor Jamie Lynn Sigler, and country musician Clay Walker.

An outpouring of love and support

All of the announcements listed above had good outcomes. There was an outpouring of love and support from all corners. While their careers were not brought back to previous levels, there was a place for them and their struggle. Those who were critical were quickly silenced and given the label of a hater. While disclosing is never easy, a supportive fan base can greatly ease the path. But they are not you.

Your own choice

I will admit that there is a great deal of pressure to be open about your multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Because there is nothing of which to be ashamed, we are told that we should feel free and open to share with those closest to us or who might be affected. We are assured that our employers will make accommodations because it is the law. We are told that our family and friends will be nothing but supportive and there for us in our time of need. We are promised that sharing our news is hard, but ultimately worth it. However, only you know your own situation. The truth of your circumstances can only be determined by you and keeping a clear eye on your own life is key.

Only you know the truth of your circumstances

One of the essential parts of living with MS is living with the truth. We cannot survive this MS life if we are lying to ourselves about the most important parts of our existence. This includes recognizing the people around you and the role they play. It means looking at things with a cold, clear eye that does not flinch. Do you have an employer who just may find a way to fire you on the sly? You might want to keep the news to yourself until you can solidify your finances.

You don't have to open yourself up to family

Family members have no special status in this either. If your brother or aunt is particularly unkind about illness, you do not need to set yourself up for painful encounters. When deciding who to tell, you must face hard truths about your own specific life. Assess those around you before you decide to disclose. Make the best choice for you. My choice to share it all online should not be a reference for you! I looked closely at my life and decided that sharing with you all works FOR ME.

There is no shame in keeping your silence and privacy. It is your choice. Use it wisely and for your own benefit. It will always, always be Your Diagnosis, Your Life, and Your Choice.

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