The Ultimate Pickup Line: "I Have MS"
“Yum! This pizza is delicious! Oh, by the way, I have multiple sclerosis. Can you pass the Parmesan cheese?”
“I had a lot of fun tonight, thanks for taking me to the movies. Did I mention I have an incurable disease where my autoimmune system attacks my central nervous system?”
“Why am I wearing an eye-patch you ask? Arghhhh, you're not interested in dating a pirate? Bad joke - I actually have a disease that I will live with for the rest of my life that attacks my central nervous system and sometimes gives me skewed vision for weeks at a time. I’m actually seeing three of you right now.”
The right time to tell a dating partner about MS?
As you can see above, there’s not really an opportune time to tell someone that you’re dating about your MS. This has been something I’ve struggled with not only when telling guys I’m interested in, but friends as well. I want them to know how serious the disease is and understand what MS is but, at the same time, I don’t want to scare them.
There's no sugarcoating MS
There isn’t really a way to explain multiple sclerosis that doesn’t sound scary. There’s no sugarcoating an incurable disease that leaves some people unable to move. Unfortunately, a lot of people my age have no clue what MS is, so they do what everyone does when trying to learn about something: Google it. For all the good that it can be used for, the world wide web can be our biggest enemy as individuals with a disease. When you google multiple sclerosis, Wikipedia defines it as:
“disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems.”
Google searches can be terrifying
Regardless of whether someone can actually understand what the heck that means, I’ll tell you one thing, it sounds terrifying. I want to teach those in my life about it while somehow convincing them they can treat me the same as everyone else my age. This is a challenge because MS is such a debilitating disease both physically and emotionally. I have learned through much trial and tribulation that the best way to deal with this issue is with honesty.
To keep MS a secret or be honest?
A few months ago, I started dating someone that I really clicked with. I had an internal battle when it came to telling him about my MS. I had two choices:
- I could keep MS a secret from him for a few months. This would allow him to get to know me as the 25-year-old young woman who works two jobs, hangs out with fun friends, and participates in the same activities as most others in their twenties (drinking, working out, going to concerts, etc.)
- I could be honest and upfront with him about it and swallow my pride while hoping he wouldn’t assume that I was on my deathbed and run away scared to death.
The latter was scarier because it would put me in a vulnerable place. I would have to explain to someone I was trying to impress about this part of me that isn’t “okay.” I was comfortable showing him the parts of me that I could control - carefully thought out witty text messages and outfits to wear on dates carefully handpicked by my best girl friends. But being honest meant showing him a part of me that isn’t necessarily desirable or attractive. I was scared he wouldn’t like me knowing that I have this disease that I have to deal with on a daily basis; something that in the future, if we’re still together, he would have to deal with on a daily basis, too. Option one allowed me more time to keep my wall up because once he knew about my MS, he would know the part of me that I’m most self-conscious about. Option two forced me to open myself up and be honest with him about the thing that I’m shamefully embarrassed of.
Stressing about this decision
After a few long nights of stressing about this decision and a couple of heart to hearts with my friends Bailey and Lauck, I knew going with the second option, though the harder one, was what I had to do. I realized that I would only want to be with a guy who could accept this part of me and like me with this disease just as much as he would like me if I didn’t have it. When I realized we were becoming close, I knew it was time to tell him, and I had all my fingers and toes crossed when I did.
How I told him
I started it off with something like- “So, I have something I have to tell you, and I really hope you don’t see me differently because I really am okay and I don’t want you to be scared or treat me differently. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about two years ago and hid it at first because I was embarrassed and scared people would treat me like I was sick. The first year I was a total mess and kind of in denial, partying a lot, but this past year I have really worked on myself and realized who and what I need in my life, and I’m doing really well both emotionally and physically. I know you probably have a lot of questions and I don’t want you to feel awkward about asking me anything. It took three medicines and several MRIs but my last MRI in November was stable, and I really am okay.”
My fears went out the window
I probably stopped breathing until I heard his response, for fear that he wouldn’t want to be with a girl who carried such a burden. I mean, after all, he is an attractive, funny, smart, 24-year-old and there are plenty of fish in the sea who didn’t come with such weight. I sighed with relief when he responded, “Meghan, you must be really strong to deal with something like this, and I respect you more than I already did now that I know this. I will always be here for you, and this is something that both of us will deal with together.” My fears of him taking off running went out the window, and I could finally open up to him about this huge part of my life. MS is a hard thing to hide especially when I take Tecfidera twice a day and get flushing all over my body (which I had mastered at timing so it didn’t happen when I was around him or during meetings at work, etc.) It was also hard to hide my blogging since it has become my outlet. I was nervous every day before telling him that he would somehow find my blog and wonder why I hadn’t told him.
Opening up about my journey
I revealed to him all about my blogs and how I was writing with hope that my experiences with MS would help others deal with theirs. I sent him the links anxiously hoping he wouldn’t be weirded out by my story and the fact that the whole world could read it. I couldn’t help the tears rolling down my face when he told me that I was the coolest girl he had ever met and thought it was awesome that I was taking a bad situation and trying to help others while healing myself by writing my journey. I explained that I was lucky to get diagnosed young because I could start treatment and hopefully live a close to normal life.
He handled it perfectly
I told him that the point of my blogs are to reach the other newly diagnosed young adults who may not be able to connect as well with those who tragically are in wheelchairs or constant pain, those of us who are fortunate enough to live almost regular lives. I shared my desire to help individuals who live “regular” lives day to day but are haunted by what could happen in the future. I can confidently tell you that the way he handled it was perfect. He couldn’t have said or reacted in any better way. He made me feel like the part of me that I found embarrassing and undesirable, was attractive, special, and something that he looked up to me for.
The response isn't always positive
If you have read my other posts, you know that I haven’t always had this response. I’ve had a range of reactions from confusion, to anger, to denial, so I’m not telling you it is always going to be positive when you have this conversation. What I will tell you is that there are people in the world who will love you for who you are, even this part of you. I couldn’t be luckier in the support I received when I told him. I will also tell you that you don’t have to surround yourself with people who don’t accept it or put you down for it. I have lost a few good friends over this diagnosis because they weren’t willing to accept it.
Wanting to maintain trust in the relationship
I took the harder choice when it came to telling Jim at the beginning of our relationship or wait until we had an established relationship. I told him right when we were becoming close instead of waiting a few months until we had an established relationship, to drop the MS bomb. I realized that the longer I waited, the more I would have to hide from him, and I ran the risk of him losing his trust in me.
Standing up for ourselves
I don’t think multiple sclerosis is the factor that makes an individual unappealing, but instead the way an individual deals with it. If I had waited until I felt it was a good time to tell him, he probably still wouldn’t know. There isn’t a perfect time or way to tell someone about this disease, the only advice I have is to be honest. I felt myself really caring about Jim after a few short weeks, and I knew he felt the same way, so it was time to tell him. There are so many people out there who will look past your MS and see you for the amazing person that you are. If you’re currently dating someone who isn’t willing to accept you and support you the way you deserve, I encourage you to be brave and stand up for yourself!
How do you feel before getting an MRI done?