Remission is defined as “the complete or partial recovery that follows an MS relapse.” What this means is that the attack has resolved itself. It also means that some of the symptoms may stay with you on a permanent basis. More than likely, you will return to the baseline of functionality that existed before the attack, with or without new symptoms in tow. Some relapses leave damage in their wake in the form of plaques or scar tissue. Even with lingering symptoms, remissions bring some level of relief and a resumption of activities and routines for weeks, months, and even years.
Despite feeling “on track” again, for many, remissions come loaded with uncertainty. Some people report a certain amount of anxiety when they begin to take on more responsibility and independence after a difficult attack. Part of the anxiety stems from transitioning from the “ill” self to the “well” self. You may worry about how many former activities you can take on right now. You may worry about future attacks. For people with chronic illnesses there is never a shortage of things to worry about.
Recovery from a difficult attack isn't simple. You have to gently feel your way through each day, using good sense to determine what is realistic and what is not. It's still important to listen to your needs and incorporate flexibility into your schedule.
There's also an adjustment to the “new normal,” as life has undoubtedly gone on during your relapse and friends, family, and coworkers have been together, doing things, going places, and making decisions. You'll have to ease yourself back into their routines.
First and foremost, it is important not to try to make up for lost time of weeks and months of inactivity all at once. Pace yourself. Incorporate balance and good sense into your new routine.
Learning how to handle the emotional aspects of multiple sclerosis is just as important as dealing with the physical symptoms. MS and Your Feelings by Allison Shadday is a good resource for learning how to manage the emotional aspects of MS, including strategies for dealing with grieving, beating depression, and building self-esteem.
Ups and Downs of MS
Handling the ups and downs of MS can be challenging, and many find the emotional component of the disease to be just as troubling as the physical symptoms. And while life for all people has the tendency to be ever-changing, it is especially difficult for those with a chronic illness.
Each person handles the uncertainty of MS in her own way, but dealing successfully with the disease will mean developing and living by a strategy of self-care, tinged with optimism and a proactive approach. Seeking help from a professional — such as a psychotherapist or an occupational therapist — when you need it and staying on top of your treatment plan will go a long way in helping you to create a dependable emotional compass.