Allison Fine - Counseling for Inner Balance
Watch more of my videos >

About Allison Fine

I provide counseling to the greater Seattle area. I have counseled individuals from all walks of life.

As a counselor, my role is to help you define what you want to accomplish during our sessions and help you understand how to reach your goals.

I seek to create a safe, trusting, and open environment in our sessions. I work from a variety of therapy models to individualize our work together.

Please visit my About page to learn more.

Multiple Sclerosis: Tearing Families Apart or Bringing Them Together?

Multiple sclerosis can be a life-long struggle for many individuals.  Having family and loved ones involved can make the process even more complicated.  Sometimes family can play a caregiving role, offering support to their loved ones with MS.  However, multiple sclerosis can also lead individuals to think that MS is tearing their family apart.  The unpredictable and chronic nature of the disease and its toll on finances often causes enormous strain within families.  Coping with MS can be a struggle, but coping with its impact on family can be even worse.  Although multiple sclerosis can tear a family apart, families can do many things to help bring them closer together.  

But You Look So Good

“But you look so good” is a common phrase used to describe individuals who have been newly diagnosed with MS.  The phrase suggests outward appearances are an accurate reflection of the struggle an individual is having on the inside.  Often “feeling good” is not the same as “looking good.”  Family members do not always recognize phantom symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive difficulties, or emotional struggles.  Experiencing these symptoms can be frustrating enough without trying to make your family understand what you are going through too.


Being diagnosed with MS can be a grieving process for both the individual and their family.  Often times family members do not want to accept that their loved one has an illness which has no cause or cure, or that their lives may be changed forever by MS.  Being in denial is one stage of grief both family members and their loved one with MS will likely go through after the diagnosis.  Not wanting to believe your loved one has MS often seems easier than having to experience many of the other feelings that come along with the diagnosis such as shock, anger, frustration, and confusion.  Talking through these various stages of grief as a family helps individuals see that they are not the only one going through these emotions.  Although everyone experiences grieving differently, and may experience these emotions at different times, dealing with each stage of grieving as a family can help the whole family move through grief into acceptance, healing, and hope.


When a family member is diagnosed with MS, the diagnosis often means a reversal of family care roles.  If a mother is used to taking care of her loved ones and is diagnosed with MS, she may have to give up parts of this role as her disease progresses.  The father may then become the one who is packing kids’ lunches, doing laundry, and cleaning up around the house, in addition to caring for his wife and bringing in the income.  Caregiving for a family member can leave the caregiver feeling burnt out.  These feelings of burnout often overcome the initial love and caring the person has in giving care to their family member.  The individual being cared for may feel like a burden to their family, especially the family member caring for them. The caregiver, on the other hand, is always taking care of everyone else and may begin to feel as though no one cares about them.  The caregiver can also experience feelings of depression and exhaustion, leaving little room for the initial compassion they once felt.  

Although caregiving can often be a daunting task, emotionally and physically, it can also be an opportunity to strengthen bonds in a family relationship.  Caregivers and their family member with MS should maintain a balance in this helping role to try to reduce some of the burnout.  Caregivers should pay close attention when they begin feeling physically and emotionally exhausted and seek help from other friends, family or from a professional home health agency.   


Many different ways exist to help your family adjust to and accept your MS.  Communication is key.  This should not be a new idea to anyone, but as always, practicing open communication with your family sounds much easier than it is.  Some MS professionals suggest treating the MS as an uninvited guest, not allowing the guest to take up more space in the household than needed.  If MS becomes the entire focus of family life after diagnosis, it may be time to find a new topic of conversation.  Communicating openly about feelings surrounding MS can help families troubleshoot problems before they happen and develop a perspective on the MS. 


Another aspect of coping with MS is money.  Of course, when considering longer term care for your loved one with MS, the last thing the family wants the focus to be on is family finances.  Many resources exist to help individuals cut the financial costs of MS, such as payments for MRIs, assistance with medication payments, and financial assistance through various MS organizations.  Being knowledgeable about these resources can help to eliminate the stress of last minute planning when health becomes unpredictable. 


Finally, education about MS is important in helping the family understand how it will affect their lives in the future.  Talking to MS professionals, doctors, nurses, social workers, and MS agencies will help your family cope with this disease and its effects for years to come.  Having the support of these professionals helps family members know they are not alone as the MS progresses. 


Paying attention to the various ways MS can affect your family on an emotional, physical, and financial level will help all family members to be prepared when changes happen.  Education, support, and communication about MS will help keep families together and improve quality of life for everyone involved.

Return to Articles »

phone: (206) 226-1097 | e-mail: | share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Digg Share on StumbleUpon Share on Delicious Share on Reddit

© Copyright 2009 Allison Fine