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MS and the Secrets We Keep

By Matt Cavallo

I was watching a British crime drama on Netflix called, Marcella. One of the subplots followed the storyline of a main character who had a disease like multiple sclerosis but was hiding it from his partner. The character had tremors and weakness in his hand and involuntarily wet himself on the show twice. In another scene where he was researching treatments on his laptop, he said he was looking for medicine for his indigestion. Finally, in episode seven, he involuntarily wet himself while trying to move a body. He looks at his partner, and says he has MS. They embrace and she asks why he hasn’t told her about his MS. This storyline had me wondering, how many of you out there reading this are going through a similar experience? Are you keeping your diagnosis from your partner, friends, or loved ones?

When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my MS. I am a big, strong guy, and I think, subconsciously, I was afraid others would view my MS as a weakness. I was worried my employer would view me differently or possibly find a way to let me go. So, I kept my MS a secret and when someone found out about my secret, I downplayed it or changed the subject just like the character on Marcella

If you a currently carrying MS as a secret, I completely understand. I understand the fear of being found out. I understand the perceived risks. Believe me, I understand. The problem with keeping secrets is they will catch up to you eventually. MS has no end date and the longer you try to hide it, the more difficult it is to keep the secret. I am no longer keeping MS a secret, but I am careful about with whom I share my health information. For example, if someone is an acquaintance, then I will not bring up that I have MS. But, if someone is a friend, I try to find the right opportunity to let them know I have MS. If it comes up naturally, I don’t run away from the topic, but I usually don’t lead by letting them know I have MS. 

Once they find out and you no longer have to keep your MS a secret, you’ll find a heavy burden has been lifted from you. Where you start to turn the corner in your MS journey is when you finally can be open and honest about your health with the important people in your life. Keeping secrets has a way of fooling yourself into thinking that a problem doesn’t exist. By letting the secret go, you are accepting that you have MS and that it is okay. 

By having that shift in mindset, you can prioritize working on your MS out in the open without secrets.