Talking About Your MS: Fielding the “But You Look So Good!” Comment

Just when you’re hoping that the important people in your life get what you’re saying about your multiple sclerosis (MS), you’re likely to hear this very common response from family members, friends, and colleagues: “But you look so good!”

Figuring out how to respond to this double-edged sword can pose quite a challenge. On the one hand, knowing that others think you look good is nice. On the other hand, this comment is tough to hear when you’re feeling really crummy — exhausted, numb and tingly, or weak as a wet noodle.

Interpreting the underlying message of this comment is even tougher. Is the person trying to reassure and encourage you? Or is the real message actually: “You look too good to be sick, so why aren’t you doing all the things I need you to do for me?”

Your best strategy for responding to this comment is probably to try and sort out the underlying message before giving a response. If the person is an acquaintance or someone with whom you don’t have a close family or working relationship, you may just want to say “thank you” and move on.

If, however, it’s someone close to you, who needs to understand that there’s more to MS than meets the eye, you have a variety of options:

  • “I’m afraid that what you see isn’t always what you get! I wish I felt as good on the inside as I seem to look on the outside. Unfortunately, MS has a lot of symptoms that don’t show.”

  • “Thanks — but today’s not one of my better days. Could I have rain check, please? This MS fatigue is really killing me. Maybe we could postpone our dinner for another night.”

  • “I know I promised to take you to the mall today, but my vision is too blurry to drive right now. Let’s see whether it’s better tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to rest, and we can try then.”

  • “The heat and humidity are really getting to me — I feel like I can hardly move. Would you mind if we had the meeting in my office where it’s cooler? Plus, that saves me from having to walk all the way to the conference room.”

The key here is that you’re the teacher, so decide how much information you want to share, and be prepared to explain some of the less visible ways MS can affect you.

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