If you’ve recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may find yourself stuck in a gray area of adjustment and acceptance — I know that area well. The emotional adjustment is one thing, but the physical takes it to a whole new level. Phantom sensations, loss of balance, struggles finding coordination — and being unable to recall that noun even if it was the last word you ever uttered on this planet.
The range of symptoms anyone living with MS may experience can be like looking into Mary Poppins’ carpetbag. There is so much in that thing, we never know exactly what we’re going to pull out. So what do we do when our bodies decide to go rogue? Consider these truths that I’ve found to ring true since my MS diagnosis.
I’ve always been one to laugh at myself. I credit this to my childhood. I was always an odd and artsy kid, and I got laughed at quite a bit. I learned that if I laughed with them, the aftermath was easier to manage. This has definitely carried over into my adulthood, and particularly into my life with MS.
I’ve learned that if I don’t laugh at myself in some of the tougher moments, I can wind up getting trapped in a dark hole that is really difficult to escape from. Thoughts of self-doubt, and even questioning my success and sanity, can take over my brain.
So why not treat the not-so-fun parts of living with MS in a more nonchalant manner? Does it suck? Yes! Is it going away? No. Why not take the shock factor out of it and laugh it off?
When I take a minute to realize that everyone living with a chronic illness encounters crazy side effects, it makes me feel like less of an oddity. Remember the children’s book “Everyone Poops”? Well, everyone also pees, and sometimes people have accidents. This is true for people who aren’t living with multiple sclerosis, as well as those of us who are.
Sure, folks with MS are more likely to have bladder dysfunction than those in the general population. But that doesn’t mean a perfectly healthy individual who sits in rush hour traffic after drinking a venti latte is always able to avoid dribbling prematurely before they can reach the bathroom.
Or, if you have MS and are like me, you’ve literally peed on your own kitchen floor. When this happened to me, even my dog looked at me like, “Why didn’t you use my wee-wee pad, Mom?”
Sometimes, these unexpected moments come out of nowhere. Part of MS is living with an expectation that unexpected things will happen, and we’ve just got to deal with them.
Over time, I’ve learned to prepare for whatever may come my way. When it comes to prepping for bladder issues, I always keep a stash of thick panty liners or feminine products in my purse or vehicle, and I keep extra emergency underpants on hand. Gents, you might consider exploring leakage protection products designed just for men. Yes, they exist! I’ve had a lot of luck with Knix incontinence underwear, which are for both men and women.
Bottom line, not taking ourselves too seriously can actually be good for us mentally and emotionally. When I fall, I no longer panic at who saw me — instead, I take a second and find the humor. More than 99 percent of the people in my life are aware of the fact that I frequently have accidents, because I talk about it. So the shock factor is now gone.
In the words of Billy Madison, “You’re not cool unless you pee your pants.”
MyMSTeam columnists discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.