How can I be successful? I just recently turned 18 but have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on my birthday, September 17.
First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. You’re 18 now, so I’m not going to sugar coat anything for you.
The next few months are going to be pretty rough. You’ve got a lot of emotions to work through, and none of them are very much fun. You’re going to go through the five stages of grief, or commonly known as DABDA:
Denial. “Nah, I feel fine, I don’t really have MS. Maybe the neurologist was wrong.”
Anger. “Why me? It’s not fair! What did I do to deserve this?”
Bargaining. Oftentimes, this involves making a deal with God for a longer life in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. “If you make this go away, I promise I’ll never <insert_bad_thing_here> again.”
Depression. “My life is over. I have MS now, and there’s no cure. What’s the point?”
Acceptance. “I may have MS, but MS doesn’t have me” and “I may have a few issues to deal with, but I can fight this, and my life can still be great.”
How much time you spend in each phase is totally up to you. You may get through one phase really quickly, and you may stay in another stage for weeks.
But you should know: you will get through it. You can’t go around it. You can’t avoid it. You have to go through it.
Once you do come out on the other side of your grief, you’ll find that your life will still be full and great and you can do anything you want to do. Yes, you’ll have a few new issues to deal with, but if you work closely with your care team and you take an approved MS medication, you will be able to keep disease activity to a minimum, and you’ll limit the duration and intensity of relapses.
What you must remember: You are a person who happens to have MS. You are not your MS. The disease must not define you, and you must not let it. It’s just a facet of your life; it does not define your life.
If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them. It may be a little scary right now, but it will get better.