Patient Perspective

Finding Your Identity after an MSA Diagnosis

By Andrea and Dannon Brown

In the face of the kick in the teeth that is an MSA diagnosis, identity becomes crucial. Who am I? What am I? What is the “me” that remains as everything else falls away?

For most of us, our identities have arisen from our relationships — spouse, parent, sibling — or our function — physician, teacher, athlete. MSA certainly changes our ability to function, so in many cases it also negates our identity. And while it doesn’t necessarily change our relationships, it seems for many of us to come at a time that our relationships are already shifting: aging parents, young adult children leaving home. No wonder it leaves us in a tailspin.

But in the empty space that was my identity before MSA, there is an opportunity. What CAN I do? Who am I still? How do I want to invest the time I have left?

What do I want to be when I grow up?

For the good of your family, your legacy, and your mental health, ask yourself these questions and work through your answers. Involve those around you. And as your symptoms and abilities change, regularly revisit this issue of identity. Each time you do is a chance to reinvent yourself.

No, you didn’t choose this, and neither did your care partner. But being proactive and positive in the midst of this is a way to take control. And maybe even have some fun in the process!