Supporting those with MCS

by Janine Ridings

Introductory note: For those unfamiliar with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), it is a condition in which a person has adverse reactions to low levels of various chemicals in his/her environment. For example, when exposed to chemicals such as fresh paint, new carpet, fragrances, or pesticides, a person with MCS may experience symptoms such as migraines, seizures, dizziness, fatigue, or joint pain. The following are suggestions on how friends and families of those with MCS and other chronic illnesses can be a support to them:

1. Be cautious in asking someone chronically ill to do big favors for you. Depending upon how ill someone is, they may be just trying to make it through their own life, and may not have the extra energy to do favors a healthy person might often be able to perform.

2. Be cautious in trying to tell a person with a chronic illness about the “latest cure” for their illness. Depending on how long they’ve been ill, they may have been to more doctors than they can remember, read more books on health issues than you can imagine, and spent more money on treatments and drugs than they care to recall! A better alternative is to pray that the Lord would lead the person to whatever doctors or treatments might be best for them. After all, He is the Great Physician.

3. Avoid excessive pity. Instead, compliment the person on their courage and perseverance in spite of the challenges confronting them. An appropriate comment would be: “Wow, what you are going through must be tough. I sure admire your courage and tenacity.”

4. Don’t tell a chronically ill person that people have different tolerance levels for pain. This implies that others who are ill are stronger than they are, and it makes them feel like if they would just try harder they could do more than they are doing in spite of their illness. The reality is, every chronically ill person’s level of fatigue or pain is different, so it’s not fair to compare them with anyone else. Trust me, no one who is chronically ill enjoys it—we all would love to be out doing more if we could!

5. Do tell a chronically ill person you are praying for them if you are sincere about it. I don’t know too many ill people who don’t welcome prayer.

6. If the person shares about a difficult experience they’ve had in regard to their illness with you, don’t try to give them your laundry list of problems in return, hoping they will realize everyone has problems. A better approach is to show compassion. Statements like, “I’m sorry you had a bad week”, or “Can I pray with or for you?” are more appropriate responses. It is important to let a chronically ill person express his/her true feelings and frustrations at times. No one can be strong all the time; let them be human.

7. If the person shares various emotions such as depression, fear, or concerns about the future, don’t tell them, “Think positive and it will be okay.” Don’t make them feel inadequate for struggling in the midst of their illness. Allow them room to suffer, and room to be vulnerable and honest about how they are really feeling. Just being available and willing to listen may really bless them. Don’t feel you have to solve their problems, just show you care.

8. Don’t tell a chronically ill person, “Well, at least you don’t have such and such an illness.” This type of comment is not helpful, and minimizes the person’s pain.

9. Don’t make a chronically ill person feel guilty if they are too ill to attend some type of party or event. If the person is unable to attend, an appropriate comment would be: “I’m sorry you won’t be able to attend but I totally understand.”

10. Don’t expect a chronically ill person to return phone calls or e-mails immediately. Some days they might be able to, yet other times it may take them awhile to get back to you. Give them lots of grace. Typically, chronic illness is like a roller coaster, where the person may have good days and bad days, or good weeks and bad weeks.

11. Just because a person looks good, don’t assume they feel good. They may spend many hours a week in pain or in bed. Just because a person doesn’t have a visible disability like a wheelchair doesn’t mean they aren’t truly ill.

12. If you are looking for a way to bless a chronically ill person, drop them a note of encouragement just to let them know you care about them. Including a Scripture verse is always a nice touch. Another idea is to ask the person if there is an errand you can run for them, or something around the house you could help with such as housework or yard work.

13. A note about emotions: At times, chemical exposures or reactions to drugs can cause a chronically ill person to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. They may swear, scream, say rude things, or go into a rage. This is normal, and it is important to love and accept a person during these outbursts, and not take their actions personally. Realize this is just part of being ill.

14. A special note about MCS: Even if you are not familiar with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), don’t laugh at the person who has MCS or tell them their illness is all in their head. People with MCS are not hypochondriacs—unfortunately the way people treat people with MCS is sometimes worse than the illness itself. Having someone laugh at or mock you when you are ill and suffering can be a deeply painful experience. Until you have walked in someone else’s shoes, don’t judge them. Be willing to accommodate the special needs a person’s illness brings such as refraining from wearing perfume and other scented products around them.

15. Above all, just love and accept the chronically ill person just the way they are, and that will bless them beyond belief!

Categories Special Subjects | Tags: | Posted on January 30, 2012

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