Should You Tell Others About Your MS?
After getting a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), one of the questions you'll face is who to tell. There's no one right answer. Your decision depends on your relationship to each person you're thinking about telling, his or her need to know, your best interest, and your feelings about sharing the information. You may need to share or you may need privacy. Above all, remember that once you tell another person about your condition, it's not possible to take back the news. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.
Telling your loved ones and close family members may be the easiest decision. These are the people who know you best, who will probably find out at some point, and who are most likely to give you love and support. When one person in the family has MS, everyone's life is impacted. Open communication and honesty are the keys to keeping these important relationships healthy.
Friends need to know about your MS less than loved ones. Most people with MS feel and look well most of the time, so there is no real urgency to tell friends unless they are very close and their support is important to you. Decide at your own pace and only if it feels right to you.
This situation is more complex. If you do not yet have a significant other, if and when to tell someone you are dating can be a tough decision. On one hand, it can be a difficult disclosure early in a relationship – there is not much benefit for you and no real reason for them to know. On the other hand, if you feel like the relationship is or could be serious, you might want to be open–honesty is an important part of building a good foundation. Simply ask yourself, "Would you want to know if your significant other is dealing with a chronic illness?" Timing and judgment on your part are important factors in making this decision.
Making this disclosure at work needs careful thought and consideration. MS is an unpredictable disease, and how it affects your job depends on many factors. Many people with MS can go on working, but you may eventually need to ask for certain accommodations to stay on the job successfully. Before you tell your boss or your contact in the human resources department, educate yourself about your rights and protections under the laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. This decision is a complicated one. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a tool on its website that can help. (You can find it in the employment section about writing out the pros and cons.)
Coworkers may also be close friends, so you may want to share the news of your MS diagnosis with them. But again, carefully consider the implications first. Your coworkers may not know very much about MS and may assume that it will negatively affect your performance job, which could have an impact on them. And what's more important, they are not required to keep your disclosure confidential. News has a way of traveling fast in the workplace. If you share the information with just one coworker assume you've told everyone. So if you haven't told your boss or your human resources department yet, hold off on telling other people at work too.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question about who – or when – to tell about your MS.
Deciding to share the information with loved ones and friends depends mostly on the nature of each relationship.
Disclosing your condition at work is a decision that requires some very careful planning.
Remember that once you disclose the information you can't take it back.
Each decision should be based on what is in your best interest.
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- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Disclosing MS in the Workplace. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/employment/disclosure/index.aspx
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Disclosing to Your Co-Workers. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/employment/disclosure/whom-to-tell/c...
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Staying in the Game: MS and Employment. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/employment/index.aspx
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Disclosing MS in the Workplace. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/employment/workplace-options/index.a...
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Disclosing Your MS to Others. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/relationships/disclosure/index.aspx
- National MS Society. Dealing with MS in Your Important Relationships. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/living-with-multiple-sclerosis/relationships/index.aspx