The support of friends and family can make a big difference to how you manage your MS and your treatment on a day-to-day basis, says Health Psychology Specialist, Clare Moloney. In particular, good friendships and the support of family can help ease the stress that having a chronic condition can sometimes cause.
Friends and family members can be valuable resources, offering support in a wide range of areas, including help with medication reminders, accompanying you to doctor’s visits, helping with transport, or by simply providing a set of ears or a hug when you need one.
Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused on our goals, especially when we spend energy worrying about what other people think.
“If, for instance, you are taking extra time off work for tests or for relapses, you may worry about what your work colleagues or your manager might think,” says Clare. “There are some people’s reactions you won’t be able to manage, so concentrate on the people who matter most, and the ones you can help influence.
“If you have a colleague who is also a friend, using them as a sounding board may be especially valuable at this time.”
“It’s always good to know you can ask for help if you need it – and that you have people around you willing to help,” says Clare.
“Often, family members and friends want to help but they aren’t sure how to go about it – perhaps they are worried about offending you or maybe they simply don’t know what kind of support you need,” she says. “So it’s quite important for you to be specific about what you do and don’t need help with, so that you make the most of that support.”
Different people in your network will be better placed to offer certain types of support than others. For example, research shows that family members are good sources of disease-management support, such as medication reminders and help at the doctor’s surgery. While friends are important sources of help when it comes to physical activity and exercise, providing transport, as well as providing emotional and information-based support.
“Consider what you need doing and who in your circle might be best suited to that role – it will make their job of helping you so much easier if it’s something they are comfortable doing. For instance, think about who would be best suited to picking the kids up from school for you, or doing a regular shop or some gardening for you. Certainly you can rest assured that it’s highly unlikely they will resent being asked to help.” advises Clare.
“Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who knows what you are going through. Making friends with other people with MS, and drawing on their ideas and experiences, can be inspirational,” says Clare. “Talking to others who are in a similar situation can also serve to remind you that you’re not alone and that there are others out there who you can share your journey with,” she says. “Just remember, though, that everyone’s experience of MS is different. The condition, and the available treatments for it, affect people differently, so try not to worry or stress over a side effect or relapse experienced by a friend – just because it’s happened to them doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen to you, too!”
We have more information here on charities and support groups for people with MS.