When my dad and doctor sat me down and told me I had MS I was speechless, as most of you probably were. They explained to me what this meant and it sounds terrifying. I remember listening to the words "MS happens when your immune system attacks your myelin, which wraps around your nerve fibers to protect them. Without this outer shell, your nerves become damaged and scar tissue may form. The damage means your brain can’t send signals through your body correctly. Your nerves also don’t work as they should to help you move and feel." That is a lot to process for anyone, but especially to a 23 year old young adult who just moved to Richmond and started a new job.
I went home (to my parents house) and cried in my bedroom. I had no idea what was going to happen. The next few days I had to decide if I was going to live in a bubble, only eat organic veggies and fruit, never drink alcohol again, and basically revolve my life around my MS. I decided that I would make a few lifestyle changes (not party and drink as much but still have fun, work out more, eat healthier) but I wasn't going to stop living the life I wanted, because then I would be letting MS define me. Once I decided that I was going to put MS on my back and carry it up the mountain instead of just stopping the climb, it was time to tell my friends.
I first started by telling my best friends that it was officially MS. Obviously I had been keeping them updated during the six months of the diagnosis, but we were all in denial. We honestly were hoping that there was a mistake and I wouldn't have another flare up, and the official diagnosis would never come. At the beginning of this whole thing I had a close friend tell me "Meghan, you're more likely to have AIDS than MS" which then started a huge argument between him and a few of my best friends who were sticking up for me. Let's just say, that guy and I aren't as close as we once were, and this is something that you have to be prepared for. I have talked to a few young adults who lost a few friends over this process too, you will quickly find out who your true friends are. When you start telling people, be prepared for all kinds of reactions. A lot of people have no clue what MS is so they will say "oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, you look so good though" and I would have to explain that MS is something that goes on inside my body, you can't visually see it. Some people will treat you like you're on your deathbed and you just have to not let that get to you, because you aren't.
People you are close to might be angry at first (as shown above with the AIDS comment) and some might be sad. My two best guy friends, Nick and Glenn, who I spend most of my time with, were absolutely perfect through the whole thing. The three of us call ourselves "The Trio" (real original, I know.) I remember sitting in Nick's basement around his table and looking up MS and trying to figure out what it all meant. We all shed a few tears and laughed about how the next time I mess up in a beer pong game, and Glenn yells at me, I can blame it on my MS (I have never had good coordination.) During this time I was wearing an eye patch to correct my double vision, and the boys decided they would wear one too so I didn't feel so out of place. People wouldn't ask as many questions if three of us were wearing an eye patch. We were all working at the seafood restaurant at this time, and I was embarrassed to wear the eye patch to work, but luckily my fellow pirates made me feel more comfortable. Once I had these two behind me, I was ready to start telling more people. I think it's important to slowly start telling your friends and family, doing it all at once or even over a few days, would be too emotionally draining. I told Nick and Glenn, and Nick's younger brother who is in the photo on the right, and we all had a few days to talk about it, and then I slowly began telling others. Allow your friends time to process this information, it is hard for them too! I saw how much this affected Nick and Glenn and how truly worried they were about me, and their pure interest in learning about the disease, and I realized this was going to be a hard journey for all of us.