Ask Caroline: How Do I Help People Understand My Condition?

The Dilemma: I am a mom with an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old, and I am dealing with multiple sclerosis (been sick since 2001, a week before my daughter’s first birthday). How do I get people to understand I’m not contagious and not to take my condition out on the kids when it comes to events like parties and such? Sometimes it gets a little rough when other parents stop inviting them to their kids’ parties since I am not always able to bring them. I know you’re not sick, but maybe you have a secret for me on how to deal with ignorant people? This puts a lot of stress on me. —Doris

Caroline’s Ruling: Wow, I’m sorry to hear this, Doris. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand how people can be so ignorant.

I’m struggling with my answer because I have mixed emotions. Half of me wants to say just ignore it and attribute it to simple minds, and the other half wants to scream at them.

I’m wondering if some parents don’t invite your children to make things a little easier for you. Maybe they’re embarrassed to bring the topic up for fear you may be uncomfortable with it. I’m just playing devil’s advocate for a second.

You didn’t mention how your children feel. Does this affect them? Have other children mentioned your illness to them? If so, then I suggest that you make time to talk to your children’s teacher, guidance counselor, class mom or principal. Maybe they can shed a little light on the situation. Perhaps they’d be willing to talk to the parents for you. Maybe even arrange a pickup and delivery for your children for these events when you’re unable to.

I really don’t believe that these parents think you’re contagious. I think it boils down to pure ignorance. Sometimes people choose to run away from things they don’t understand or that make them uncomfortable. That’s the sad, simple truth. The last thing I want to see happen is for you to put undue stress on yourself, both physically and mentally. That doesn’t help anyone.

I remember when my children were growing up, and every now and again they wouldn’t be invited to a party. My heart broke for them. I can only imagine how you feel — my heart breaks for you now. I will say one thing as sure as I know my name: They survived, and so did I. You and your children will too. Surround them with love and laughter; teach them to be strong and compassionate. Make them understand that there are times in life that things just won’t make sense, but they have to endure those times with their chin up and a positive attitude. Remember, this too shall pass.

I hope this helps Doris. God bless you and your family. Xoxoxo