The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) chapters and other groups have played an important part in education of patients and their families about MS. The MS Society chapters have regularly supported educational lectures for MS patients and their families. These sessions sometimes double as group therapy. When supervised by a professional, they are of real value to participants. Certainly, meeting other patients and exchanging experiences can help put the disease in perspective. It is important to recognize that the clinical course of illness varies greatly from one person to another. Young people may be intimidated when they meet severely affected individuals, regardless of the age or duration of illness. Therefore, potential participants in these sessions may wish to get more information about who will be present at a particular group session they are considering attending and whether it will be led by a knowledgeable professional.
The NMSS prints many helpful brochures, but the practice of mailing out dozens of brochures to unsuspecting newly diagnosed patients can be intimidating and, of course, wasteful.
I am not drawn to groups; usually I prefer a talk with God, a close friend, or a family member as a source of support. Nevertheless, I participate in MS support groups. I find them to be helpful as sources of information, and I hope I have been a source of support for other people. As with any group, there are dynamics and politics.
MS as a common bond makes it no more or less likely that I will necessarily like or want to spend time with a person. However, MS has created a connection with and introduced me to people I might never have known otherwise.
The people at the meetings by and large are there for positive reasons. They are generally well informed and well meaning. Additionally, there are the usual characters: the newly diagnosed person in denial who is sure it was a misdiagnosis and expects never to be at another meeting; the recently diagnosed person who expressed the same denial at a prior meeting; the person who is certain of and has all of the answers; the bee sting aficionado; the lonely soul who has no other social contact; the nervous caregiver who eats cookies nonstop; and me. All of these people come together with stories that are unique, unnerving, empowering, irritating, enlightening, heartbreaking, tiring, and fascinating.
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