How do you cope with MS when dealing with tough periods?

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How do you cope with MS when dealing with tough periods?

Postby beyondms » Sat Mar 31, 2007 10:56 am

I was wondering how people cope with MS when they're going through a rough patch in their life like a death of a loved one or losing a job. I am dealing with the latter where I had lost a job I liked. I have managed to get contract work but it's not what I really want.

I am now faced with a situation where I visibly limp and I disclose my illness to prospective employers. Given that I am in an ultra-competitive industry (finance), I find that people tend to shy away from hiring someone with an illness.

On top of all this, I try to remain stoic for my wife, who I sincerely love. I do not want her to feel more pressure than she is already feeling. But sometimes it's extremely difficult to cope with life.

I have thought about therapy but I keep telling myself what's the use...it's not like I am going to walk better after telling a therapist all my problems.

Right now, job hunting is weighing heavily on my mind. I wanted to share this with the board because I am sure some of you have been there and maybe can guide me. I would appreciate your thoughts.

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Postby Manchester » Sat Mar 31, 2007 2:33 pm

Beyond MS,


I am sorry to hear you are going through tough times at the moment and glad that you are sharing this with the board and that you are keeping going with your job hunting.

No you may not walk better after therapy but it may well help you deal better with negative things in your life.

It is a cliché but no one is an island and often just talking to another person -openly and in a non- judgemental and non -threatening environment can help.

Talking with friends and loved ones also helps but sometimes we still have to put on a certain face, act a certain role, be aware of their limitations, their sensitivities and this often means one cannot fully explore fears, and without the ability to explore these fears with complete honesty and trust then it is often hard to move beyond a situation, to truly lay fears and apprehensions to rest and by doing so find better or more appropriate strategies and mechanisms to move forward.

It is hard for anyone, without an illness like MS, never mind with MS to shoulder life stoically all the time, to be alone. Forget the crap about being born and dying alone, the crap about being a burden, the image of the hero and heroine battling life, surviving the odds all on their on. We are social animals and our psychology is not set up to do this successfully over a long time, something has to give.

Therapy can mean many things, much depends on the type of therapy most suitable for you. It also means finding the right therapist, one you trust and feel comfortable with. It may mean a counsellor rather than a therapist.

From what you say, I would think perhaps Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) might help. CBT is a branch of psychotherapy, it is a psychological process based on cognitive and behavioural scientific principles.

CBT is not about endless hours dwelling on your childhood or indeed the past but looks to identify practical steps you can take to make a difference in your life such as finding strategies to help in overcoming the issues you now feel you face in job hunting.

It does this by breaking down the problem, identifying its different parts and exploring feelings around these smaller parts, finding solutions that then help to bring the overall issue down to something much more manageable.

It can help to change the way you think about you, your situation and the world, help you change your responses to events, help reduce stress and other negative coping mechanisms.

It is about the here and now and works best with anxiety, depression, stress and social phobias. It is not however talking therapy as it looks to find outcomes much quicker than other types of therapy. It is a more short- term psychological therapy. So good for helping people with the rough patches you write of.

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Postby Brainteaser » Sat Mar 31, 2007 6:38 pm

Hi beyondms,

If it's only your walking (a limp) then you're probably not in too bad shape to do finance work. Business and MS are a bad mix at the best of times. I've had MS for many years but somehow still manage to work full-time and run my own firm. You definitely need to think 'outside the box' in terms of achieving anything. For example, I have other peoples' 'legs' to do most of my running around - even for reasonably important matters. BTW I don't think it's a good idea to tell others in business that you have MS - it's not their business. Maybe say you have a nervous disorder for which you're receiving treatment or whatever. Take the emphasis off your health and show people what you can do with your financial skills and work ethos rather than thinking about the downside..........just some thoughts.

Regards,
Phil.
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Re: How do you cope with MS when dealing with tough periods?

Postby NHE » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:30 am

beyondms wrote:I am now faced with a situation where I visibly limp and I disclose my illness to prospective employers. Given that I am in an ultra-competitive industry (finance), I find that people tend to shy away from hiring someone with an illness.

Right now, job hunting is weighing heavily on my mind. I wanted to share this with the board because I am sure some of you have been there and maybe can guide me. I would appreciate your thoughts.

The Accelerated Cure Project has put together a couple of documents on dealing with the workplace and MS.

Moreover, many of their downloads can be accessed from this page.

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Postby TwistedHelix » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:57 am

Hello beyond,

I'm so sorry to hear you're having such a rough time. One of the hardest things about a disease like MS is the impact it has on your emotions: your worries about the future and your fears for the present are invisible to other people; it can be frustrating that they can't see just how much it hurts inside when it feels like your life is crumbling away, and yet you do your damnedest to hide everything from them.
Screwing up the courage to talk about things to your loved ones feels as if it is going to be a big risk: as if when you start to talk about your condition that will set things in concrete and make what is happening to you much more real somehow. You struggle on as best you can in the hope that, if you can hide it from other people, then it's not really happening and they won't worry too much.
Also, you know that they feel helpless in the face of this disease, that if you burden them with your worries they will be unable to cope -- in this way, MS can quickly become the "elephant in the room" that everyone can see but no one dares mention.

But if you break the silence it can come as a massive relief to everyone: far from being a burden, you may find that confiding in people; opening up and sharing your vulnerability; asking for a shoulder to cry on, may actually allow them to feel really pleased that they can at least help in one way.
It isn't easy, though, for all of you to take on these new roles in life: if you were always the strong one who other people turned to for help it's a pretty big thing to suddenly be on the receiving end -- perhaps you can look on it as a paying back of dues.

As far as employment goes, well, it's a long time since I was at work, and I was lucky to have an understanding employer. I do wonder if there might be some legal implications if you decide not to disclose -- things like workplace safety insurance, healthcare cover and such like.

I'd second what Manchester said about therapy, although in my book a really close friend is worth a thousand therapists. But I think it all boils down to one fact -- you really need to talk to someone, and if you really don't want to do it face-to-face, there are plenty of us here on this board who are more than willing to listen,

Dom.
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Postby LisaBee » Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:00 am

I'm not sure where you live, but it is my understanding in the US (I could be wrong, if I am, someone correct me) you don't have to disclose health conditions in job interviews, and it is discriminatory for the interviewer to ask about health problems in the interview that are unrelated to the job function. In the US, prospective employers aren't supposed to ask questions about health matters, national origin, marital status, sexual preferences, any of that stuff. Interviews are supposed to be about your qualifications, your experience, your work history, your ability to do that job, what you can bring to the company, etc. That, and whether you are a citizen or have a green card if you're not. That's basically it. A good prospective employer isn't going to care about anything else. Some people, seeing a limp, might think you recently hurt something and ask you what happened. Technically, they shouldn't ask that question in an interview, but they may do it without thinking. You can just shrug and say you have a problem with your leg and let it go at that. In the job interview stage, it is none of their business.

It may help you to consult for an hour or so with an attorney specializing in labor law, employment discrimination, and disability issues to get the do's and don't's on what you are legally required to discuss in a job interview so you can approach your interviews with confidence and focus on the important issues relating to the job function, which for a finance job doesn't include your limp. You aren't applying for a physically demanding job you know you wouldn't qualify for, like a fireman or something. I don't know if you have any special need, like an eyesight problem that would require a workplace accomodation, a reduced work schedule, etc and what you are legally (and reasonably) required to disclose about that up-front in an interview. An attorney could answer that. You have a visible limp, so do a lot of other people, and limps are caused by a lot of things. I sometimes limp because I have an old meniscus tear in one knee that can't be fixed. If you had diabetes, or arthritis, or nerve damage from a car accident, etc., you wouldn't feel compelled to offer that condition up, so don't offer MS up either just because you limp. You have got an employment track record, you lost your old job (so do a lot of people) and you went out and scored contract work, so you can show you can still work.

Once you GET the job, then, as part of you applications for health insurance or other benefits, that is when the health disclosure issues do come in. The employer may react negatively to that, but the ball is in the employer's court, not yours. You showed the employer you had the right qualifications for the employer to hire you, you get in the door and start doing the job. If the employer starts treating you unfairly once you're in, then the law is on your side, although it won't be a place you would want to work in anyway, and probably isn't a good place for any of the other employees, either.

Good luck job hunting!

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Postby beyondms » Sun Apr 01, 2007 10:30 am

I thank all of you for your input. The issue of whether or not to disclose my illness has always weighed heavily on my mind. I am at the point where I feel more comfortable disclosing it to prospective employers. It relieves a big stress knowing that my employer is not looking at this in a negative way.

I write this knowing full well that many employers will never hire someone with a chronic illness. I have experienced people that were interested but then, all of a sudden, they stop returning phone calls. I live in Canada where federal regulations mandate certain institutions to hire minorities, including people with disabilities. But I am beginning to feel like these laws look good but have no substance to them.

Dom, I do agree with you that a good friend is worth a thousand therapists. I happen to know someone who is amazing. I tell him everything about my illness, my marital problems, my frustration in securing work, my fears and hopes. He's a great person to talk with. But I also like talking with MS patients who have experienced discrimination and similar anxieties as what I am going through. You can identify with my concerns.

Again, the primary reason why I feel the need to disclose early on that I have MS is because my limp is visible and I struggle to walk long distances. I have also experienced discrimination in the workplace after waiting to disclose my illness, but it's more insidious discrimination where they try to frustrate the hell out of you so you quit.

I did not quit but I did get dismissed - unjustly dismissed - based on my "profile or personality conflicts" but not performance. I could have easily sued them but settled the matter because I can't afford to go through a protracted trial.

I try to remain positive but I find myself downing it some days. Work is incredibly important to me because it keeps my mind busy. I pray that this rough patch will go away and that I will find something that interests me.

Thank you all for your support and moral encouragement,

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Postby thinkingoutloud86 » Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:15 pm

beyond-

Sorry to hear about the job crap. It seems as if you have already received some pretty good input. I just wanted to add my two cents about the idea of a therapist. I would agree that nothing replaces a good friend who is willing to lend an ear to us. However, I come from the school that it doesn't have to be an "either or" type of thing.

There are psychologists with specialized training and credentials in treating individuals with chronic medical conditions. In the states, we refer to them as Health Psychologists. My guess is that if you contacted the Canadian Psychological Association or a local affiliate, you could locate one.

best of luck,

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Postby Manchester » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:31 pm

Hi guys,

Just want to make it clear I am not suggesting a therapist replaces a good friend, rather you have the option of either or both and sometimes the perspective and neutrality of using a therapist can help in ways that friends may find more difficult for the very fact they love and care for you. I guess I am a little biased as a therapist as I think sometimes there is a role for both, dependent on the issue/type of problem we face in our lives.

Good luck to you Beyond. Just a thought but is the type of work you do the sort you could do as a self employed person, not sure the word used over the pond but we call people freelance, it can mean setting up a virtual office, working from home, not even having to see the people you work for etc.

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Postby TwistedHelix » Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:46 am

Manchester,

Just to clarify: I meant no disrespect to therapists only that, for me, my friends are my therapists but of course that doesn't mean you can't have both, and benefit hugely.

"Beyondms", it sounds to me as if your buddy is priceless, you may work in finance, but I bet you couldn't put a price on his friendship, could you? :)
I think you've been the victim of "constructive dismissal" where your employers tried to make life hell so you'd quit and then when that didn't work, just found an excuse. It's never happened to me but I've seen it happen to others, and it's not pretty, but as you say it's difficult and expensive to prove. We have anti-discrimination employment laws here, too, but I imagine they're pretty easy to get around.
Working for yourself and from home sounds like a good idea, but I get the impression that you don't just need work to keep busy, you need to physically go out to work, have I got that completely wrong? It sounds as if you've already decided that prior disclosure is the right thing for you to do so maybe, as you're looking around, you could do some discreet detective work to see if the company already employs any disabled people. Of course, you can only do that if you have the luxury of plenty of choice where you live.

Or maybe, and I know this is really difficult to do, you could make a concerted effort to shift your focus away from work. It sounds like a real cliche, but it might be possible to develop hobbies and interests so that they occupy your mind and give you a sense of fulfilment. Perhaps you're not ready or willing to do that: it's just a suggestion,

Dom.
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Postby Grumpster » Thu Apr 05, 2007 4:45 pm

Oh this topic is close to heart for me.

First I believe that it is not necessary to disclose MS to an employer and I advise against it, at least during the interview process. There are laws to prevent the discrimination, but they are basically unenforceable at the hiring level because the employer can always say that you were just not a good match and unless there is documentation to prove otherwise you are out a job. I have told people in the past that I hurt my ankle, or twisted a knee, something like that when I have had visible limp or walking imparement. They seemed to accept that answer and that was it.

Trying to be the pillar of strength for your loved ones is tough for anyone, but for people like us with MS it is really tough. I have often felt like I did not want to trouble my wife by telling her all my symptoms and I often keep them to myself. I do not believe that it is a healthy way of dealing with it for me, but when I have told her how really shitty I feel and described all my symptoms she was visibly shaken and scared and I do not think it helped anyone.

I have tried therapy to help me deal when the times get real tough and have had some success with that, but mostly i think it is just getting your feelings and thought out in the open that helps more than anything the therapist says. Usually they do not say much. I told my most recent one that I thought I got just about as much from telling my dog my problems. He was not amused, but it made me smile!!

Best of luck. I wish i had more answers, but I am in a similar situation to you, so I can relate!!

G
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Postby Loobie » Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:47 pm

I can relate to feeling like you have to be the pillar of strength. It feels like you have absolutely no choice and drains the satisfaction you get out of doing a good job. When you really think about it, we do have a choice. I'm not saying drop out, but letting go every once in a while with my wife always does me a world of good.

It is good to be able to do that. I feel it even more so as I'm writing this and thinking about my wife studying for her RN at 43 in case she has to support the family. Now that's a wife and mother. I guess the way I do it is by communicating with my family. I almost feel like I am lying if I don't fully tell them what is going on with me. Fully letting go to them was the best thing I ever did. There may come a time when I absolutely do not have a choice; that she may have to take care of me. That is scary as hell. But letting go and not feeling like I have to be everything to everyone was hard, but it really feels good.

I have always played that role well and now it's time to learn a new one. If there is any hope of happiness, then change must happen. They say the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Reading this post has been very cathartic for me and I am really doing therapy now by writing this. Thanks for starting this thread beyond.

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Postby sh8un » Thu Apr 05, 2007 9:49 pm

Hi Everyone,
I think talking about your feelings is a great thing. Whether it is a friend, parent, boss, or a therapist, it does not matter. Someone who you know cares about you and what you are going through...and yes, I do think that some therapists out there actually care about you as a person.
Dom...I really like the whole "elephant in the room" thing. I have not heard that before. That is exactly how I felt before my fiance and I really sat down to talk about things. Before the talk, I would pretend that everything was fine, and he did not want to bring up anything negative. He let me go on acting happy. Only he did not know it was an act. He thought that I was getting along fine and that I was doing really great. Then came the night of the big break down. One of the nights that suits this situation: lol: . At the end of our talk we came to the conclusion that he did not want to bring things up because he does not want me to feel inadequate because of the MS. We figured that I was not problem and that MS was the problem. That whatever happened to me, we would be in it together and as long as he knew how I felt, we would both fight it. The biggest thing was that he told me that he wanted me to know that he feels he cannot show me that he is mad because I would assume that he is mad at me because I have MS. When in fact, he is mad with me at this stupid disease.
As far as your disability goes, I have to say that you do not have to disclose your info as you know. I am lucky because I have a very understanding group of ppl that I work with. So for now I want to show them what a person with MS can do.
Good luck with your decision. For me talking to my partner and holding nothing back seemed to help. We finally realized that there are problems but I am not the problem. We are both angry that this has happened and we will get through it together. I no longer have those questions in my head like "does he realize how hard this is to put on a act?" or "if he cared so much, why doesn't he ever bring up the subject?" "does he fear a future with a person that might be in a wheelchair?" We talked about all of that. It really actually helped to say that last part to his face and watch his reaction. I was not disappointed.
NN
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Postby Loobie » Fri Apr 06, 2007 4:38 am

NN,

I think you summed it up well. It's like any problem. You can't tackle it unless you call it what it is. Dancing around stuff seems so much easier, when in actuallity it makes it much harder. That question about wanting to be with someone who may be in a chair is a really big one. I bet that felt like a relief getting that one out. You really find out what your relationship is made of quickly when all the cards are on the table. Then you can get back to the business of life.

I am glad that you got the 'look' you wanted. I bet that was the scariest thing to think about and I bet once you got past that you let out some air. I've come to the conclusion that head in the sand is not a therapeutic tool.
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Postby sh8un » Fri Apr 06, 2007 8:04 am

Hi Loobie
The W/C question really did help because it was my biggest fear and so I needed to know that he had thought about it and could tell me why he wouldbe ok with it.
NN
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