A Woman's Touch: Multiple Sclerosis and Femininity

by Lorna J. Moorhead

When is the last time you were proud of your body? Or the last time you felt sexy? If it was just recently, then I applaud you. Most of us however may be shaking our heads and laughing sarcastically at this thinking "Hmm was that a year ago or two years ago?"

MS can ravage a woman's sense of identity. Women MSers battling with fatigue, loss of sensation, and mobility problems, often find themselves loosing their sense of feminity. Weight gain caused by lack of mobility and fatigue can make this situation even worse.

Many of us have the idea that people with disabilities are not attractive. Walking with a cane or being in a wheelchair can not only wreck havoc on your pride but on your sense of feminine grace. Being sucked under by fatigue and loss of sensation, can make you feel less than sexy. Add bladder problems and spasticity on top of that and you're your likely to feel horribly unattractive!

Watching TV and glancing through magazines, this idea of disability being unattractive is confirmed by the lack of disabled women represented. When is the last time you saw a model in a wheelchair? Or a movie where the leading lady had speech problems and was numb on her left side?

Having MS does not mean you have to lose yourself! There is a beautiful wild woman in there who is dying to get out! Here are a few tips and reminders for reviving your self esteem and sense of feminity.

Get rid of the media. If the magazines make you upset and remind you of all those things you can't do, THROW THEM AWAY! If the TV shows you watch are bringing you down , quit watching them. There is no sense in dragging yourself through the mud every time you see a Nike ad.

Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you see yourself as ugly then you will feel ugly. Embrace the beauty that is inside yourself! Notice what beautiful eyes you have or how graceful your hands are. Focus on your pluses instead of your minuses.

Buy "lovies". Lovies are items that make you feel spoiled and feminine. For me it is this wonderful peppermint scented soap and a soft chenille blanket in deep blue. I soak in the luke-warm tub with my soap and then wrap myself in the blanket while I eat chocolates and read trashy romance novels! This small amount of pampering helps me get back in touch with myself. Pamper yourself! Lovies can be anything from perfume, clothing, chick-flicks (you know the movies only WE watch?), a wonderful massage, or a dinner at a great restaurant.

Read books that make YOU feel magnificent. Put down your "MS Handbook" and grab something like "Succulent Wild Woman" by Sark or her fantastic book "How to Change your Life Without Getting Out of Bed". It's a playful book about guilt free napping. (something I have a hard time with.) Try a Chicken Soup book! Anything! Find a book that reminds you what a special person you are and to stop wracking yourself with guilt and pain. Other books are "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and "SoulWork" by Betty Clare Moffatt. For mothers I suggest "Operating Instructions" by Anne Lamott.

Give yourself a spa night. Set some candles around your tub , fill it up with bubbles , play some soothing music, grab your book and slip in! If lukewarm baths are not your thing (since hot water can make your symptoms flare), try a cozy relaxation in your room. Surround yourself with food you love, dress in an outfit that makes you feel sexy and just enjoy the time to celebrate being a woman. (Please bear with me if I am sounding a bit New-Agey!)

Enlist your mate. Oftentimes MS puts a deep strain on relationships. Most likely your mate would love to glimpse the happy carefree woman you once were and would do almost anything to see her again. Take a country drive together, go to an ice cream parlor, or walk barefoot in your backyard at night (Okay maybe not , that sounds like a BIG accident waiting to happen.) Meet your mate for a rendezvous at a hotel or a meal at a romantic restaurant. Put on that silly lingerie thing with only one strap ( You know the one hiding in the back of your underwear drawer?) You might feel silly, you might think you have changed too much, but you are the woman he fell in love with! (Whether or not you can still do acrobatics five times a night) Sometimes all he needs is to know you are willing to try.

These are just a few ideas to help regain a bit of your feminine self and to help you feel beautiful again. It may take time as many of us have been dealing with MS for years and have started to feel asexual, but it will come back. Remember: MS may have changed your life and your body but it can never touch your soul.

© Lorna Moorhead

Lorna Moorhead was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September of 1999.