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What Does it Take to Be Brave?

What Does it Take to Be Brave?

Preset Style
(Disclaimer: I have no artistic talent, but thank goodness there’s an app for that!)

When I need to de-stress or take sometime to myself I head outdoors. Nature is my sanctuary, and a little fresh air has a way of putting all the stress of life into perspective. Recently I found myself at a peaceful little spot along the James River watching two geese swimming with their little goslings. They were gliding effortlessly along the water, making it easy to forget that beneath the surface their feet were constantly kicking and fighting against the river’s current.

Trying to be like a goose gliding

I’ve spent the better part of 4 years trying to be like a goose gliding gracefully against an ever present current. I never let on what a struggle living with MS can sometimes be. As far as everyone else is concerned I look like a healthy person, walk like a healthy person (for the most part), and talk like a healthy person. Therefore, I’m probably just another normal healthy person. Right?

I overcompensate

Instead of blowing my cover I overcompensate, and I’m the master of making excuses. I’ll say I’m limping because my shoes are killing my feet, or if someone comments on how tired I look I’ll dismiss it by saying that I must be coming down with a cold. When an angry spinal lesion left my right leg too weak to operate my car’s pedals for more than 15 minutes at a time I simply left for work an hour earlier, pulled over for frequent rest breaks, and strolled into the office like it was just any other day. I’ve administered IV steroids to myself at my desk and even on vacation, without most people even knowing that I’m going through a relapse. I choose to glide, but sometimes the furious paddling wears on me.

Putting on a brave face

Now, keep in mind that I’m out and proud about my diagnosis. My friends, family, coworkers, thousands of strangers, and many of my patients know that I have MS. I’m extremely outgoing, social, and honest in every way…except for one. No matter how public I am about my diagnosis I still feel the need to put on a brave face. I would like to blame it on a desire for privacy, but that’s only partially true. I like to grieve in private, and I have a tendency to retreat into myself when I’m going through a hard time. I am the dependable one, the supportive one, the insightful advice giver, the healer. I am not the needy one, the weak one, the emotional one, or the one that is falling apart. I smile wide and crack a joke to lighten the mood, both for myself and for the sake of others. Sometimes I even avoid telling people the whole truth simply because I just don’t have the energy to emotionally support them as well as myself, so I just keep paddling and gliding.

Learning not to hide my struggles

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Actually, for the most part, gliding suits me quite well. I’ve learned not to hide my struggles from my closest friends and family, but beyond them I don’t like to divulge the messy details of my MS. However, I recently found out that this can be a bit of a double edged sword. I have gained many great relationships with other people living with MS, and a few of them look up to me more than I realized. I thought it was good to be the rock that other people could lean on, but that never needed any support herself. So imagine my surprise when I was trying to talk a fellow MSer off the ledge, and in a moment of frustration she said “I know YOU are fine and have it all together, but the rest of us are drowning out here”. I hadn’t realized that by working so hard to make everything look effortless, I was putting pressure on her to do the same.

I’ve been telling myself that gliding was an act of bravery, when really it is the other way around. It is ok to let people see me splash around from time to time, and hopefully by changing my ways I will give others permission to do the same. Together we can all battle the current and keep afloat.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • saddison
    3 years ago

    I have learned that the further along in this disease process you are, the more difficult it is to hide the symptoms. Neurogenic bladder and bowel issues, for example, are not topics for polite conversation. While I was recently hospitalized, my son learned that my husband was having to assist me by pressing on my bladder so I could urinate. This led to a conversation about some of the difficulties I experience unbeknownst to him. It was a relief in a way, to have that acknowledged. I try to spare my grown children, and others, of many of the challenges, but at times these struggles are out there for the world to see. Prayers for all who face MS. Keep fighting, and search for the silver linings.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi saddison, thanks for being part of the community and for sharing your good wishes. We’re sending good wishes to you and hopes that you are feeling a bit better. -All Best, Donna ( team)

  • joannmaxwell
    3 years ago

    I can so relate to what you said. I recently wrote a book about how my faith has allowed me to move through the grief of being diagnosed with MS. I really struggled on how much to reveal and how much to keep quiet. I decided that I needed to be totally honest and upfront so I could help others. It was a hard decision to come by.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, jmaxwell, and indeed for your bravery. It is hard sometimes to lay ourselves open, but those things that we struggle with can sometimes be the lifeline that someone needs to feel less alone, or understood.

    We’re glad that you’re here! -All Best, Donna (

  • LucySchotte
    3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing! I am the same way. I put a smile on my face and keep going. My family and some close friends are the ones that are the struggles I go through. Sometimes they also have to deal with the mood swings. I am very grateful to my family. I love sitting on my back yard. I watch the squirrels and brids. I love taken pics of nature. Some thing I did not know until I was diagnosed with MS.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi LucySchotte, we’d love to see some of your photos if you wouldn’t mind sharing on our Facebook page!

    Thanks for being part of the community! -All Best, Donna ( team)

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