Why are parties hard for some people with MS?

Parties, holiday or otherwise, take many different forms, such as: 
  • children’s parties (think 20 six-year-olds, wild with excitement about opening presents and fueled by sugar, sugar, sugar)
  • an office party on a Friday evening (think 30 adults, happy to be done with the workweek, getting a little loud and maybe tipsy as they discuss interoffice gossip)
  • a family celebration (think about all of the emotional baggage that comes with this particular mix of people, not to mention your role in preparing the meal and other tasks)
Any of these scenarios can be draining for anyone. However, people with MS may have specific symptoms related to the disease that can make parties like this particularly demanding — emotionally, mentally and physically.
 
Many people with MS struggle with cognition. Most people associate this with things like not being able to remember something they just heard, or putting something, such as the house keys, down and being unable to find them again five minutes later.
 
However, cognitive issues can also make it difficult to keep up with a conversation, especially if lots of people are talking at the same time. We may have a hard time finding just the right words to communicate a thought — often, by the time we figure out how to express ourselves, the conversation has moved on to a new topic.
 
Fatigue can also be a big impediment to being the life of the party. Many of us barely have the energy reserves to make it through a normal day. Holiday time, with the extra stuff that we have to do, can really wipe us out. A holiday party can require more energy than we have.
 
Speech problems are another type of MS symptom. Dysarthria is a speech disorder in which the pronunciation is unclear, but the meaning of what is said is normal. It can cause people to speak in slow or strange rhythms. It can also make people with MS speak more softly than they would like or slur their words. This makes it hard to participate in conversations at parties, especially if there is loud music or lots of background noise.
 
These are just some of the challenges that people with MS bring with them to parties. Let's not forget other MS symptoms that can impact many of us, such as urinary incontinence, mobility and balance issues, various pain symptoms — all of which can make it difficult to relax and enjoy a party.
 
However, this doesn't mean that we should sit at home while others are having fun. I have a few suggestions for how to enjoy yourself at a party, particularly during this holiday season:
  • Be picky. If you don't really, really want to go to a party, don't go. 
  • Plan ahead. Rest up before the party, so that you build some energy reserves to carry you through.
  • Strategize your socializing. Have a two-sentence answer prepared for the "how are you?" question, so that you don’t find yourself stumbling around looking for an appropriate response. 
  • Have one-on-one conversations. Trying to participate in a large group discussion can be hard, especially if the topics are moving quickly. Find an interesting person and have a nice chat, preferably in a quiet place.
  • Don't be afraid to leave early. Listen to your body, and do what it says in terms of getting out of there and into bed.
  • Limit the booze. Alcohol can make fatigue and other issues worse. A drink or two is fine, but don't try to keep up with "Party Marty" from the office next to yours.
My goal here is not to be a Scrooge, but to remind all of you that we can still enjoy the holidays. Doing some things on our terms can reduce stress and fatigue and keep the season merry.
 
Happy Holidays, my friends!
Tags Healthy Living, Symptoms      25 Appreciate this
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Julie

Julie Stachowiak, PhD

Julie is the author of the Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto, the winner of the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the Health Category. She is an epidemiologist who is also a person living with MS, Julie has an in-depth understanding about current research and scientific developments around MS. She also has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations and anxiety surrounding the disease, as she had MS for at least 15 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2003 and has had several relapses since her diagnosis.

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    44 Comments

  • Tracy Morgan   Dec 5, 2013 9:50 AM
    that's right
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    yogileah  Dec 5, 2013 9:55 AM
    Thank you for posting this – I thought it was just me that felt this way! These are great tips. I also find that drinking water in between/instead of alcoholic drinks helps me stay hydrated, clear headed, and also helps limit the negative after-effects of alcohol.
  • susan   Dec 5, 2013 12:13 PM
    Didnt know I had MS until almost 60. MD thinks Ive had it since 23. Am 63, walking, talking, driving, living alone w no need 4 outside help yet but sooo tired 2day. Get IV steroids every few months, take meclazine, klonopin, hctz but thats all. Theres more to my story 2. Hang in there - life is good.
  • Ellen Hopkins   Dec 5, 2013 12:40 PM
    Susan, similar to you I was diagnosed at an older age: 55 for me. What a rude awakening!! Also like you, the indications are I've had MS a very long time. Wish I could pinpoint how I kept the symptoms at bay for 30-plus years. It must have been my insistence on daily exercise. I'm curious how many women reach a point where low Vitamin D, menopause and a thyroid condition converge simultaneously. Take care and get LOTS of sleep.
  • wendy   Dec 5, 2013 12:45 PM
    Any suggestions for these parties where everyone stands and mingles? I have a hard time standing for very long, and my legs hurt terribly. I find myself swaying and could easily fall.
  • Lorrie   Dec 5, 2013 2:18 PM
    The last question from Wendy is also a question from me. How can I be social and hold conversations without standing for too long? It is hard for me to maneuver and mingle where there are groups of people. I would like to participate in conversations and not appear uninterested. It can be difficult to find a chair, and awkward to be seated talking at everyone else's waist level.
  • Blue Skies and Butterflies   Dec 5, 2013 2:42 PM
    I have spent a lot of time with people this year. I found out I had MS 9 months ago and I think I was depressed. Not the kind where you sit around and cry or don't leave your room though... I've actually thrown 6 parties and had people at my house a lot of weekends (4 or more in a one bedroom almost EVERY weekend.) I think I was just afraid of losing connections. Now I think I just need a few less and that these people will not leave me. My biggest fear in all of this is that people will desert me. Maybe not because I'm sick, but for normal reasons that people sometimes leave. Moving, not getting along, etc. Whether they leave me because of the illness or not, I could still very well go through tremendous stress, die, or be disabled alone. I know this is irrational but we all have things we fear. I hope when I stop wanting to party others will chill along with me.
  • Trudy Eisner   Dec 5, 2013 2:59 PM
    Spent Thanksgiving week w/family. Over the years I have learned to pace my activity. I have a very loving family/support network who understand my needs. However, it has taken me a long, long time to express these needs. I encourage my peers not to be uncomfortable asking for assistance. Don't take as long as I did.
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    A_J_  Dec 5, 2013 4:19 PM
    A cane with a built in seat would be a good thing to have, wish I had one! Sitting is in imperative at any function!
  • Elizabeth   Dec 5, 2013 5:00 PM
    Thank you for this! I am going to share it with my family members so that they may get a better understanding of why I "act" the way I do.
  • Antwan   Dec 5, 2013 8:19 PM
    I am reciently diognossed male with Ms. I am seeking advice on what to expect dealing with Ms as far as tips on diet, exercises and therapies that may help with my life.
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    Bobo  Dec 6, 2013 7:05 AM
    Wow-timely advice for party season. We've gotten to the point of not going out, but inviting family for drop-in desserts on Christmas Day, with them bringing desserts to share. I'm in my own home, know my own leaning spots, can invite people to sit around the table with me, and best of all, direct them to find what they need-be it spatula, knife to cut something, more forks or plates, etc. Hope you all have good holidays, Merry Christmas!
    Cheers, Bobo
  • michelle   Dec 6, 2013 10:22 PM
    I have recently last year lost 70lbs made big difference in how I have been feeling also new ms pill has made me feel better been doing just amazing the last year and hope to keep going this way :)
  • Anita   Dec 7, 2013 11:51 PM
    I know I have to get with it for Christmas. Haven't even thought about shopping yet and holidays were always such a happy time for me. I don't feel like going to parties and I constantly have to go to the ladies room and that's so embarrassing.
  • Patricia   Dec 8, 2013 9:07 PM
    I am glad I came across this page & read it because it's exactly how I feel, but nobody understands! They just don't get it. How can anybody really understand when practically every time the media interview a person with MS it's someone who just climbed the Rock or did dancing with the stars? I have secondary progressive I don't know about you but there is No Way I could even attempt to do any of those things. Some days I'm lucky if I can walk to the bathroom. My experience is the general population know the abbreviation "MS" but they don't have " a clue" to what it is or how it wreaks havoc on the lives of the people that have it. Mentally, physically and emotionally. Well thanks for letting me know you understand it makes me feel connected to something.
  • hchunter  Dec 17, 2013 6:48 PM
    I am divorced, and after many years, began dating. We were getting serious, but when I told her about my MS, she withdrew and eventually broke up with me. You could say I'm lucky, but don't feel that way. My MS is not apparent to anyone. Frankly, I'm scared to get close to anyone for fear I'll be rejected and abandoned.
  • Marsha Michaels   Dec 19, 2013 11:47 AM
    Hi. just wanted to let you know I'm 67, diagnosed at 40, although the first symptom was at 21 with optic neuritis. I suffer with a very slow progression. However, now arthritic knees have complicated my legs to the point I'm so tired of struggling, i think it's time to just stay seated. If you are relapsing why not get on an interferon? A band-aid for sure but worth it. Me? I'm waiting for myelin repair. good luck.
  • Seth   Dec 19, 2013 12:42 PM
    ***Not being able to find the right word, is like...uh, wait, never mind.*** Seriously, I've been DX since 2006 and the cognitive issues are out of control. I work in sales and it's really driving me crazy. I can't think or talk on the fly, at least as well as I believe I used to be able to. The worst part is that this manifests as a form of mental weakness, indifference, etc. Where is the magic brain pill for MS? I've searched plenty for advice/help/resources online. I'm at a loss.
  • amanda favero   Dec 19, 2013 1:42 PM
    I have m.s. I've had it since 2006I was just put on meds for me even party's with the family is hard to do they are still in the mind set I can do every day thing like I used to standing or sitting for a long time I get tired out and my room is down stairs so that tires me out this year I let my 12 year old do the tree and rap the gifts we put them in different boxes so she wouldn't know what it is to help me out.I'm 37yr. and I have to have help every day with the little stuff like dressing my self so I know how some of y'all feel but hang in there I can't tell you how good it fills that I'm not alone in this so marry Christmas and happy new year
  • Janice   Dec 19, 2013 2:34 PM
    Julie, To read this and to see all that has been shared has been very uplifting for me. I was diagnosed in 2006 after a year of tests and began thinking that I was a pin-cushion. After diagnosis my life totally changed as I was a workaholic and loved it. My doctor told me to Stop. My reply was, Stop what? He said, Stop working. If you do not stop, I can guaranty something. Loss of the use of you legs or your arms, but I'can't tell which it will be first. Having a wonderful business partner made my transition easier. I kept up part time until he came in and said, "Someone wants to buy our business" I feel that my retirement was forced. It bums me out but I've remained positive and encourage everyone around me to do the same. Thinking positive and continually looking for new things to do has opened many new doors. It keeps up our needed thinking and concentrating and can be fun!
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    -V  Dec 19, 2013 2:35 PM
    Thank you for posting this. People sometimes think I've had a couple too many when in fact, it's just that my balance is off or my words are slurred. I do have trouble following conversations, as well, so it's nice to know there are others in the same boat. :)

    Happy Holidays & thanks for the tips.
  • Ron S- Florida   Dec 19, 2013 7:52 PM
    Great info. Going to copy and forward to my family.
  • Camille   Dec 19, 2013 8:47 PM
    I am a single mother of three boys I was diagnosed in 2000. At first when the doctor told me I looked at him like okay where is a medication to get rid of this thing and then when he told me it will not go away I said okay whatever and just went on with my life. I have had a few ups and downs I try to act like I was just as normal as anyone else but then lost sight in one eye and now I am legally blind. Well I have no one else to blame but myself. So, here I am after all these years finally now starting to except or should I say learn to except what is going on with my body trying to learn as much as I can I love all the comments that were left I learned something more each day I really appreciate everything everyone said it is really good to read these comments knowing that others go through same thing because there is no one around me that really knows what you feel then someone else who is actually going through the same experience. Anyway, I hope everyone have a blessed holiday and stay healthy and safe.
  • Judy   Dec 20, 2013 12:39 PM
    Great advice.
  • JBS   Dec 20, 2013 9:08 PM
    I'm 68 and was diagnosed with MS in 1993, I was on Avonex until last April (3 yrs stable MRI)....I think all continues to be stable, or so says my MS Dr. I have now been complaining of mild cognitive issues but can't tell if it is age or MS. Perhaps both, also suffer from meniere's so dizziness is just part of my life and that makes me tired and angry. Article really was perfect for me because my husband doesn't know why I didn't want to have a holiday brunch because he helps me so much.......BUT!! Glad to know I'm not alone.
  • Aida   Dec 22, 2013 8:38 PM
    My son was diagnosed about 3 years ago and it is not easy to see your son struggle with simple tasks, how you can say do not give up on yourself, I know there is help out there.
  • Phyllis Haas   Dec 29, 2013 7:45 AM
    Thank you for the comments above. It is so hard to keep going. Was diagnosed in 2005. Supposedly 40 years of slow progression. I was told of my condition without an explanation. Husband had just passed, inlaws abandonning and both parents in a care center. My children found suit to take over my home and leave me. These comments are giving me courage to look ahead. Most new friends do not understand my condition, but at least try. Keeping busy as a local volunteer has also helped tremendously too. My parents have passed both in their 90's. I just hope I do not have those genes, Being 76 I have been told medications wold just be hard on me, so I continue to run into walls, rely on a wheelchair and a walker. Have made my HUD apartment avoid of obstacles and all my low shelves for my belongings.
    Thank you so much for this area in which to vent where others might know your plight.
  • jean   Dec 31, 2013 2:15 AM
    I can relate to all of the above comments. I'm 67 & was told in 07 that I have MS & seizures. Was in intensive care for my heart & kidneys when a neuro. doctor told me I have MS! I have kidney disease, muscular dystrophy & Lupus..I too, was low on Vit. D, & had thyroid problems. A dual pacemaker & calcium channel blockers for my heart has helped so much! ( I was on Beta Blockers..they made everything so much worse.) I use a push walker at social events if I must! Then I always have a seat! I have trouble w/ bladder & bowels, memory, balance, fatigue..most everything mentioned above. I miss many social events also. People tell me that I look so well. I tell them yes, today I feel better. I tell them that they don't see me when I'm in my gown & robe for 3 days too weak to get in the shower or dressed. My family finally is " Getting It" that I can't take care of the house & do the parties, etc. any longer. I started falling as a young girl. It has kept getting worse all these yrs. Some drs. won't diag. a bad disease such as MS, because if they are wrong they will lose their license. This is one reason why it takes so long to find out What is Wrong with us! So sad! The dr. was Angry b/c he could not do a MRI due to the pacemaker! He put on my chart clinical MS. A CAT scan of the brain did Not show MS. My next step is a spinal tap. Life has been so very hard, but I take care of myself & have a good husband. I want & plan on living as long as possible. I have wonderful grandkids to keep me going. I was a hard worker & had six children who were always ill. I did everything possible to get by. It is hard to accept that I can't work like that any longer. I feel like my body won't do what my brain wants. I'm sure that is how all of you also feel! I just think it could be worse...& the next day may be better! I wish they would give me some meds. to help! Also, hope they soon find the cause & cure; so that all of you can feel better & have a better quality of life!
  • howard krock   Jan 10, 2014 3:10 PM
    I find that I need to pace myself for big events. I went to a Christmas luncheon at the company I worked for until 2009 when I couldn't do my job any longer. They still invite me to the luncheon and I try to get there. It is difficult as I no longer drive and for an event like this I use my powerchair. I was diagnosed in 2007 and watched my skills diminish. My Dr. says I've had ms for at least 5 years prior to diagnosis.
    I found out in June that I cannot drink alcohol with the medication I take. I still entertain, but I prepare for the events so I don't fatigue myself.
  • maryrose boisvert   Jan 26, 2014 12:22 PM
    hi to everyone & happy new year! just stumbled upon this site & I am so glad to know that I am not the only person w/ms who has a dread of parties. I am looking for an exercise program for people w/ms. good to know there is a place where I can be heard!
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    dianelcarr1953  Jul 13, 2015 7:27 PM
    Thank you for this site.I have been diagnosed with R/R MS in 1985. I have studied everything I could find when I was diagnosed. I like this site for the reason that we can ask questions and receive many different answers of how we cope. Hopefully we can learn from each other and give support to those who don't have a support system, or just need to talk. A small donation of our time may give someone the fresh start they need, or just a I understand and what can I do to help......
  • Rose McGrady   Jul 22, 2015 12:30 PM
    where can I find group of MS individuals that I can speak with
  • Avatar
    jvander67  Aug 14, 2015 6:57 PM
    Lots of great information on here....so nice to not feel so alone.
  • Avatar
    jvander67  Aug 14, 2015 6:57 PM
    Lots of great information on here....so nice to not feel so alone.
  • Char Andreasen   Oct 12, 2015 12:43 PM
    My husband had symptoms in 1986 and he started with double vision and was dizzy and his equilibrium was bad and he felt like he was sick to his stomach with his dizziness! He went that summer starting in July and we wondered what was going on so he went to a chiropractor thought he pulled something in his neck and no relief so he sent us on to a ophthalmologist thinking he had a tumor in the back of his eye so he sent us to Iowa City, IA and they tested him for Lyme Disease and many other related things and they did not diagnosis anything after 4 days of testing, so they were going to start test over again, my husband was not going to have that so he walked out of the hospital and said no way and when we left for home his symptoms went away for 7 years and then unfortunately when he finally made manager in 1988 and was starting to make money and he got a new supervisor in 1991 and put a lot of stress and pressure on my husband he started getting the symptoms back and hard falling down and had to walk with crutches and so we went to the doctor and she sent us on to a neurologist so he checked him over in 1992 and tested him for Lyme disease and M Gravis and other things and he took a test for a Spinal Tap and could not get enough fluid out so then went for a Mri and they found lesions on the brain and was diagnosed with M.S. I was so sad our dreams were all gone after all the moves and hard work to achieve his goal and now he has Primary Progressive and has been in bed for 12'endurimg years started with foot drop,and then legs got wobbling and then falling had to call the Emt's all the time to pick,him up and then eventually our home health care left him in bed for 7 in a half years never got out of bed, then he got really bad UTI and sent him to,a nursing home to finish out his medicine and they were going to get him out of bed I said no he can't because he would get a collapse lung, the nursing home said no you have to get execerise because Medicare will not pay for it so they sat him up and he sat there and they said he is not dying is he of a collapse lung I was shocked that he was not passing out and no problems, the exercise team said he should have not laid that long in bed with out getting in a chair with a Hoyer Lift, we did talk about that with the home health care but they said the carpet would not make the Hoyer push him to,the chair since he is about 225 pounds so we let it go for almost 8 years and then when the therapist said you need to get up and sit in a chair and get outside in a wheel chair I talked to the home care and they did get things to get him out, I think just laying there that long did not help things he can't even sit up so they made a special wheel chair for just him and his needs! His mind is effected and he has a catheter since 2003, just some information about his situation and there was no medicine those years only one and the neurologist did not find us any way to pay for this drug! So we went through the cracks of the system! I am his sole caretaker to my husband, just an aide for,an hour and a half and a nurse once a week! Medicare will not pay any more then that! Nice uh!
  • Char Andreasen   Oct 12, 2015 12:43 PM
    My husband had symptoms in 1986 and he started with double vision and was dizzy and his equilibrium was bad and he felt like he was sick to his stomach with his dizziness! He went that summer starting in July and we wondered what was going on so he went to a chiropractor thought he pulled something in his neck and no relief so he sent us on to a ophthalmologist thinking he had a tumor in the back of his eye so he sent us to Iowa City, IA and they tested him for Lyme Disease and many other related things and they did not diagnosis anything after 4 days of testing, so they were going to start test over again, my husband was not going to have that so he walked out of the hospital and said no way and when we left for home his symptoms went away for 7 years and then unfortunately when he finally made manager in 1988 and was starting to make money and he got a new supervisor in 1991 and put a lot of stress and pressure on my husband he started getting the symptoms back and hard falling down and had to walk with crutches and so we went to the doctor and she sent us on to a neurologist so he checked him over in 1992 and tested him for Lyme disease and M Gravis and other things and he took a test for a Spinal Tap and could not get enough fluid out so then went for a Mri and they found lesions on the brain and was diagnosed with M.S. I was so sad our dreams were all gone after all the moves and hard work to achieve his goal and now he has Primary Progressive and has been in bed for 12'endurimg years started with foot drop,and then legs got wobbling and then falling had to call the Emt's all the time to pick,him up and then eventually our home health care left him in bed for 7 in a half years never got out of bed, then he got really bad UTI and sent him to,a nursing home to finish out his medicine and they were going to get him out of bed I said no he can't because he would get a collapse lung, the nursing home said no you have to get execerise because Medicare will not pay for it so they sat him up and he sat there and they said he is not dying is he of a collapse lung I was shocked that he was not passing out and no problems, the exercise team said he should have not laid that long in bed with out getting in a chair with a Hoyer Lift, we did talk about that with the home health care but they said the carpet would not make the Hoyer push him to,the chair since he is about 225 pounds so we let it go for almost 8 years and then when the therapist said you need to get up and sit in a chair and get outside in a wheel chair I talked to the home care and they did get things to get him out, I think just laying there that long did not help things he can't even sit up so they made a special wheel chair for just him and his needs! His mind is effected and he has a catheter since 2003, just some information about his situation and there was no medicine those years only one and the neurologist did not find us any way to pay for this drug! So we went through the cracks of the system! I am his sole caretaker to my husband, just an aide for,an hour and a half and a nurse once a week! Medicare will not pay any more then that! Nice uh!
  • Margaret mallon   Dec 4, 2015 10:21 PM
    Going to neurologists since 2003 diagnosed late 2011 I can empathize with all these symptoms thanks for the advice learning everyday
  • Margaret mallon   Dec 4, 2015 10:21 PM
    Going to neurologists since 2003 diagnosed late 2011 I can empathize with all these symptoms thanks for the advice learning everyday
  • Margaret mallon   Dec 4, 2015 10:21 PM
    Going to neurologists since 2003 diagnosed late 2011 I can empathize with all these symptoms thanks for the advice learning everyday
  • Margaret mallon   Dec 4, 2015 10:21 PM
    Going to neurologists since 2003 diagnosed late 2011 I can empathize with all these symptoms thanks for the advice learning everyday
  • Adria   Dec 5, 2015 11:36 AM
    Thank you! I have this frustrating symptom...cognitive dysfunction. I was diagnosed in 2003 with relapsing remitting & this is the most devastating symptom.
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    sammyjoes  Jan 21, 2016 7:11 PM
    Wow That was amazing! Thank you for your help!
    Sam
  • Janis silver   Mar 5, 2016 10:08 PM
    Being a parent of a 38 year old who was diagnosed with MS two years ago AWARENESS of this disease, its disabilities has to be spread every way possible!!!! Most individuals do not know what MS is!
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    JenniferAileen  Apr 8, 2016 10:04 AM
    Thank you. I struggle every holiday, birthday, wedding, just any upcoming event in general. Starts kicking off the emotional roller coaster. I despise this. Feels good to know I'm not the only one.