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Friday, November 7, 2014

The Virtual Multiple Sclerosis Support System

In the last 2 months since I began blogging, I am astounded and in awe of the power of technology. I have formed connections with MS patients worldwide, and using the power of the internet, I hope I have helped in some small way.
We are so fortunate to live in this time. With an illness like MS, feeling understood and supported is absolutely essential. For those who have no friends and family with MS, the virtual support system found online can be life saving. There is nothing more dangerous than feeling isolated, alone, and misunderstood. Once we begin to feel alone, we start to sink into dark places and depression.

Connections help us reach up out of that darkness into the light again. For those who feel uncomfortable attending in-person support groups, MS related online groups, chats, and conversations can be just as effective. The outpouring of support I have received since starting the blog has reassured me that people around the world are listening, and hopefully feeling a bit better by hearing these words I type.

Do you find yourself thinking "I must be the only one feeling this way?" I often have those thoughts. I often think that I must be the only one on the planet who has ever reacted in this way. It only takes me about 10 seconds in my virtual "support groups" to realize that I am never the only one.

My grandmother (who I have mentioned before) had MS during the 1950s. My mother explained to me that in that time, no one discussed MS. It was a family secret, something to never discuss in public. Can you imagine? If you were made to feel by society that your MS was shameful? It must have been so difficult to suffer from MS in previous generations, before a definite understanding of the disease.

MS researchers are tirelessly working on new, novel treatments for our illness. As we try our best to manage this disease and cope with current treatment options, they continue to work, study, learn, and develop new treatments. I feel so reassured when I read about new studies, new generations of researchers and scientists devoting entire careers to the eradication of this disease.

Do not underestimate the power of basic human communication when managing your illness. Sometimes, we are powerless over the physical symptoms we experience with MS, but we are always in control of the way we react.

"When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength." - Dalai Lama

I like to think of MS as my challenge to improve the person I am, to find new strength, and to develop a stronger mind. If we are never challenged, we can never grow. I know that sometimes, we don't want to hear the "cheerleading," the inspirational quotes, and the over-the-top positivity. However, sometimes those things are exactly what we need.

If all else fails, and you still feel down and depressed, try this: Try to support and cheer another MS patient. If not in person, then online. Try to provide the support and positivity that you would like to have. Try to pull another patient up from the depths of sadness, and you might actually feel energized, renewed, and valuable. Your experience is very likely to be incredibly helpful to another struggling patient!

Human connections are the key, and sometimes a computer/phone/tablet is the only tool required.

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