Image Credit: Getty Images/Megan Maloy
Woman enjoying birdwatching in field despite MS mobility issues

MS Anxiety: Overcoming Fear while Staying Safe

Reading time | 4 mins
MS may affect mobility. After a fall, Kat Naish was frightened of causing her body more pain. But when fear influenced her every decision, she knew something had to change. 


When you're diagnosed with a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis (MS), the physical issues come with a side helping of fear.

Of course, a lot of that is fear of the future. But today, I'm talking about a less "abstract" dread - the horrible anxiety of being unable to trust or rely on your own body.

I was at home one day when my husband returned from a run. He burst through the door, eyes shining with enthusiasm over a barn owl he'd spotted in a nearby field. We knew it lived locally, but our sightings were few and far between.

I am a keen photographer, and my husband loves how much pleasure I get from my hobby. He urged me to get my camera ready and try to get some shots the next day.

I should have been ecstatic about the chance to get this wonderful bird on film. But as quickly as excitement flared, anxiety dampened it back down. I'd never be able to wade through that field. It was as nature intended, so bumpy, boggy, and overgrown. Meanwhile, MS affects your mobility and one symptom I have is "foot drop." This makes walking feel dangerous at the best of times - even on a flatter surface.

The uneven terrain was a no-go for me. I was gutted.

Relentless fear influenced every decision I made

I was angry too. There it was again, that same fear holding me back and stopping me from doing the things I love.

Not for the first time, I felt that my body had snatched away yet another treat. I can't trust it to keep me upright, and I'm terrified of falling.

The last time I fell, I hurt myself badly. My ankle was injured for months, plagued by shooting pains and stiffness. If that wasn't enough, you could have fried an egg on my face from the embarrassment. I sat there, clutching my ankle on the concrete of a busy high street. I wished I could jump up, give a sheepish grin to passers-by, and shuffle off without making a further spectacle of myself.

Instead, I almost passed out from pain and couldn't even think of getting up for several minutes.

Since then, the fear ramped itself up to overdrive. I hate walking in the dark because I'm anxious about tripping and falling. I used to love rambling in the woods, but tree roots and uneven ground make a particularly deadly obstacle course. Likewise, our local beaches are pebbled instead of sandy. Imagine walking on pebbles wearing boxing gloves on your feet. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? It is so hard to keep upright!

Contemplating all of this made me withdraw for the rest of the night, ruminating on this fear that never left. It had haunted my every decision since the day I'd sprained my ankle. But while I wanted to keep myself safe, I had also nixed every opportunity for joy and pleasure.

Fear’s adversary made an unexpected call

Then something else flashed through my mind. It was bigger and brighter than the fear and filled my heart with fire. Obstinacy.


The feeling was still there the next day, flooding me with adrenaline. I grabbed my camera, and I went looking for that owl.

And, boy, did that owl show up! As it swooped through the sky, I stayed at the edge of the field, taking shot after shot. They were good. But could I get something even better...?

Right there, that’s when I overcame the fear. At that very moment, I simply had to get closer, and I stepped into the boggy field.

I moved carefully, picking and choosing where my feet landed, gaining more confidence with every step. After an hour, it was too dark to take any more photos. I walked home, elated. I returned the next day and the day after. And, as I got bolder, my pictures got better.

I won’t let my MS symptoms or fear take the joy out of life

Even writing this now fills me with pride. Pride and relief. Relief that I learned a big lesson that day. Fear no longer holds me hostage and speaks over my every decision. Instead, obstinacy and fear have learned to dance together - one pushes me to do what I love while the other keeps me safe.

I now know that I never had to "get rid" of the fear. I had to turn it into a tool I can use on a whim, rather than vice versa.

Now that I've learned - quite literally - to "step" out of my comfort zone, I want to work towards my other goals, too. Next on the list? Conquering my fear of heights!

NPS-IE-NP-00553 February 2023