A door creaking open in a dark room. I bright light shines in from the unknown.

MS & Fear of the Unknown

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) almost 9 years ago, and as many people will tell you, being diagnosed with a chronic disease can be rather scary. Even now, all this time later, and after all that I’ve been through, I can still remember a lot of the details of that day pretty clearly, including how I felt and what I was thinking. While everyone might give you a different reason for why being diagnosed with MS was scary to them, I would argue that a lot (but definitely not all) of the fear that comes with a diagnosis like this are probably all the same thing just hiding under different disguises. People naturally fear the unknown, and considering the fact that most people don’t know too much about MS when they receive the news that they have it, I would say it’s safe to assume that their diagnosis came with a lot of fear. In that one moment in time at the doctor’s office, there was so much that I realized I didn’t know, so many questions that I now had! My mind was instantly flooded with an ocean of unknowns.

Why are people afraid of the dark?

Most of us (whether we have a chronic illness or not) can all relate to this concept of “unknowns" causing fear through the simple fear of the dark, even if we only ever experienced it as a child. I mean, let’s be real here, the dark was scary, right? Why though, would anyone be afraid of the dark? The mere absence of light? Well, that’s a dumb question, everyone knows the answer to that! Monsters, of course! The dark is scary because that’s where monsters hide! “Calm down, there aren’t any monsters hiding in the dark,” an adult most likely assured you, but that didn’t really change anything, did it? Why not? Because you didn’t know for sure that there were no monsters. You still had no idea what was actually in the dark despite what the all-knowing adult was assuring you. Darkness is probably the best representation of “the unknown” that I could ever think of. People are afraid the dark because they don’t know what’s in it. People are afraid of the unknown.

Knowledge is power

If you ask me, being diagnosed with MS is like being pushed into a dark room that you’ve never been in before. You have no idea what’s in there, so naturally, your mind starts to wonder if there’s a “monster” lurking in the corner. The only way you can know for sure is by turning on a light so that you can see what’s there, right? So, if the dark represents all the unknowns of MS and those unknowns are causing you fear, then how do we get rid of the dark? We flip on a light, of course! In this analogy, knowledge is our source of light because knowledge allows us to answer many of the unknowns that come with MS. Knowledge is power.

A life full of unknowns

As we learn more about our own illness, we become able to see that we are not just in an empty room, but in actuality, we are standing in the entrance to a large maze full of many dark corners. This is life with MS. A life full of unknowns. But the more we learn about our illness, the more light there will be to show us what’s around each corner, and the easier it will become to navigate this maze. We will probably never be able to eliminate 100% of this darkness, but the more we know, the less dark corners there will be to hide surprises in our maze. Don’t be afraid of the dark; turn on the light, and see what’s there. Learn all you can about MS so that your maze, your life, will contain less of the many scary unknowns that MS inevitably brings about. Knowledge is the flashlight we get to bring along on our journey to help us illuminate the dark labyrinth of unknowns that MS pushes us into. How bright that light is depends on how much we are able to learn about our MS.

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