Prior to my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), I had a relatively active social life and was full of energy; working full-time and exercising six days a week. My self-confidence was strong as was my physical body. Life was good until the sh*t hit the fan when I became severely ill and was ultimately diagnosed with MS. Then, everything changed.
Immediately following my diagnosis I went on the disease modifying therapy (DMT) of Betaseron. Namely, I had to inject myself with Interferon beta every other day. The bruises around my body were hideous and took forever to heal. They were uncomfortable and very unattractive, in my opinion. And as I looked in the mirror every day at my changing body (weight gain, fatigue, etc. all caused by MS and the various medications), I began to see myself as damaged goods. My mood was somber; my self-esteem at its lowest level in years. And imagine if I felt this horrible about myself, how could any man ever remotely find me attractive?
I slowly slipped down the rabbit hole of deep sadness and learned to be mollified with being on my own. After all, I had my family and friends, what more did I need? Did I just say I had my family and friends? Well, guess what? Not so much at the time. My family was very concerned but did not understand MS and really didn’t know how to help me. They wanted to “fix” me and that can’t happen with a chronic disease. This led to lots of frustration on both our parts. My friends, those who were peripheral, could not deal with the attention no longer being on them and their problems. Unconsciously, they showed sympathy by climbing inside my box and making the situation all about them, something for which I had no energy to handle.
As far as my social life, men stopped asking me out. To be honest, men stopped even talking to or flirting with me. To this day I attributed that to the fact that I no longer viewed myself as attractive to them because I’d gained so much weight and had so many bruises. Yes, I’m still stuck in the mindset that most men want thin, beautiful, perfect women as their partners. Without saying anything more, suffice it to say I grew up with that stigma around me like many women of my generation did.
Over the years since my diagnosis, I have created a great support system. Most of my family members are amazingly compassionate although a few used to behave as if I might be making all this up to get attention. I had to teach them that although I may look fine, it didn’t necessarily mean that I am fine. I had to teach them about MS and its effects on my body so they could empathize with me; recognizing they had no idea how I felt yet could still offer support. My friends drastically changed as those who were peripheral disappeared and those who were (and are) my real friends continue to help me through tough times.
Two and a half years ago things shifted even more when my doctor changed my DMT from Betaseron to Tecfidera (an oral medication). The bruises healed after several months and my body began to recover from the havoc the Interferon had on it. As I felt stronger in body and spirit, I began to take even better care of my body through nutrition and exercise. And guess what happened next? I started to accept my body, extra weight and all, because I was so proud of it for keeping me well even with a chronic disease. My perspective shifted and I no longer view myself as damaged, but strong and able to withstand anything. I may have MS, but MS does not have me. I am my own MS superhero.
Did all this stimulate my dating life? No, but it did shift my perception of it. Perhaps men are intimidated by my self-assurance. I don’t need anyone to take care of or fix me. Maybe the man who is strong enough to be my partner (not necessarily a caregiver) simply has not crossed paths with me yet. I continue to look and hope that if I put myself out there enough he will eventually find me. In the meantime, I continue to live my (single) life filled with a loving family, fabulous friends, and enjoyable activities. A few extra pounds, thinning hair, and signs of fatigue are my badge of honor for remaining resilient in my battle with MS. And I am confident that “Mr. Perfect-for-me” is somewhere out there; we simply need to find each other.
Do you have problems dating with multiple sclerosis?
Barbara inspires hope through mindful health and a meaningful life. By combining healthy living, spirituality, and neuroscience principles, she helps people understand how to be proactive in their health care versus reactionary in their sick care so they can feel great in their body and in their life. Her greatest wish is to never hear a person say, “I should be taking better care of myself.” To learn more and receive her FREE guide, visit Appelbaum Wellness.
Recommended Reading: The role of stress and MS.