Telling people you have MS

Telling people that you have MS can be difficult.Accepting the diagnosis yourself is hard, let alone sharing the newswith others. Being able to talk about being diagnosed with MS can takecourage, but it can be helpful too. If people understand MS, they aremore likely to accept any adjustments or support you may need.

When you are considering talking to others about your MS, remember thateveryone is different: they each have a different relationship with you,they may want or need different information about MS, and are likely toreact in different ways to your news.

For each person, it is a good idea to consider if theperson needs to know about your MS, and if so, what you want them to understand about MS and whatis the best way to tell them. This way, you can tailor the way you talkto them about it. Some people find it good to practice what they want to say first.

Many MS societies or organisations have printed information about MS which youcan give to the people you choose to tell about your MS, which can behelpful for them to read later and digest. Find your nearest MS organisation.

Who to tell?

Partners or potential partners
If you are 'dating', or have recently met someone, you may not want todisclose your MS initially. Usually, it is not a good start to arelationship to keep secrets, but you also need to feel close enough tothem to want to share important information. There is no one ideal time –you will know when you feel that the relationship is ready for thisnext stage. If the person is right for you, they are likely to besupportive. If they aren't, then perhaps they weren't ready or right foryou anyway.

If you already have a partner, then your MS will change their life too.This can be worrying for both of you and you may need to support eachother. Make sure you give your partner time to absorb the informationand remember to keep communicating about it over time.

Remember you cannot predict the future. All relationships have their upsand downs, and any number of things can bring them to an end or make them stronger.As with all issues that affect couples during their relationship,communication and understanding are really important.

Parents and other family members

Disclosing your MS to your family, who may have know something was wronganyway, can help to begin the coping process. Grief and worry arenormal emotions for family members to feel when someone they love hasnews affecting their health.Parents in particular worry about their children, even afterthey have grown up. Other common emotions can include guilt if parentsfeel that they have somehow 'given' them the condition.

Your children
How to explain MS to your children can be worrying, but you are the bestjudge of how, when and what to tell your childabout your MS. Children are naturally likely to have questions, feelingsand worries about the impact of MS on you and your family, and it is agood idea to encourage them to share these thoughts with you. It may beimportant to explain, for example, that MS is not contagious.

Friends
It may be a good idea to start with your closest friendsand with those that you feel most comfortable with. With time andpractice, you’ll be able to decidehow much you want to share and with which friends. A change in someone'shealth can be a challenge to friendships, especially if symptoms suchas fatigue affect a person's ability to always take part in socialactivities, and many people with MS say that it helped them to identifytheir true friends.  

Employers and colleagues

Disclosure at work can have a significant impact on your jobsecurity, employment options and career path. Before disclosing your MSin the workplace, learn about your rights (these vary country to country– your national MS society should be able to help) and think carefullythrough the pros and cons ofsharing this personal information. Many people report supportiveemployers and colleauges, but this is not always the case. Read more inour survey results about employment, and in the employment edition of MS in focus.

How will they react?

Each person will react differently to what you tell them, so be preparedfor a range of reactions. People may be shocked, fearful, calm,distressed or quiet, and some may not really understand and will needtime to digest what you are telling them. Others may go out of their wayto help and sometimes this can be frustrating if it is not wanted. Somepeople may avoid you because they don't know what to say. They don'tknow how to deal with you having MS, so they choose not to discuss it,which can be difficult.

Whatever a person's reaction, talking about it with them can be reallyhelpful. This may be easier once you have come to terms with thediagnosis yourself, so talk to people when you really feel ready.