2019 Ultimate MS Gift Guide (and what to avoid)

It’s officially time to switch from PSLs to peppermint mochas, which means the gift-giving season is upon us; and if you’re wondering what to get the person who has everything wrong with them, my MS gift guide is here to help. 

Yeah, but isn’t it the thought that counts?

Sure. If you’re lucky enough to have a loved one whose love language is quality time and acts of service, you don’t need this list. Empty the dishwasher and namaste.

But, if the object of your affection speaks the same superficial, materialistic lingity I do; has impossible standards; and reads way too much into every gift they’ve ever received, well, you’d best keep reading.

I’m a professional.

The importance of presents

Gifts are important because they show we appreciate and are grateful for the people in our lives. The best gifts are the ones where we feel seen, because they indicate that the giver knows us so well. Great gifts can strengthen relationships, while the wrong gifts can get us all bent out of shape as we wonder Do you even know me? Dad???

If you’re shopping for someone with MS you need the inside scoop on what to avoid, and what’s gonna earn you Best. Santa. Ever. Here are my top tips:

The fixer-upper gift

If your loved one has MS, there’s a good chance you wanna fix them. You may even believe you know what’s best for them. Gifts in this category include diet and natural healing books, memoirs about people killing it with MS, supplements, fitness trackers, exercise classes, and anecdotes about someone you know who knows someone who’s sister’s neighbour’s boss cured themselves of MS.

Why it’s bad

Normally I’d say that even a bad gift is better than no gift, but the gift of unsolicited advice is literally the worst. From the time we’re diagnosed, everyone has something to say about what we should be doing. (Your MS would be better if you lost weight, ate kale, took this drug, took no drugs, wore these crystals, went to church.) At best, you mean well, but these kinds of gifts can feel like passive-aggressive undercover douchebaggery.

What to get instead

Assume we know what’s best for our MS. Stay out of the vitamin aisle, and before you pick up books with words like ‘survival’ or ‘overcoming’ in the title, ask yourself if it’s a present or advice. Yoga mats and gym memberships are allowed if the recipient has asked for them. Instead of trying to cure MS (you can’t), there are lots of gifts that can have a real impact on symptoms:

Everyone’s MS is different, but fatigue is pretty universal. Give something that helps conserve energy, like a robot vacuum cleaner, or gift cards to a food delivery service. If you’re a baller, spring for a cleaning service, and you will be loved forever. Anyone with winter-related dysesthesia will appreciate these cozy heated booties by snookiz.com.

Sure, meditation is great, but this bracelet (by me!), which lets you wear your mantra on your wrist, is better. Get it here.

The experience gift

Thanks to Marie Kondo, we now know that stuff is bad. We’ve moved beyond the material and are ready to carpe the fuck out of every damn diem, because YOLO. Gifts in this category come in the form of a voucher and include things like rock-climbing adventures, laser-tag, line-dancing, whale-watching, weekends away, and wine-tastings.

I.O.U. a good time

Why it’s bad

The problem with experience gifts is that they require us to do stuff, and when you’re living that chronic illness life, doing stuff can be a drain. It requires planning and pacing, and the actual desire to do the thing we want to want to do. It might seem clear (heavy on the might) that a trail ride is too much for your person with weak legs, but so much of MS is invisible. If you wanna experience true panic, take a Tripper with a sketchy bladder to an escape room.

What to get instead

Gift certificates for things like massages, spa treatments, movies, high-tea, or your local comedy club provide experiences that allow for some flexibility and can be scheduled around energy levels and good days.

The DIY crafty gift

Gourmet meal kits are trendy af right now, and you can get do-it-yourself gifts for everything from building a birdhouse to making your own lip balm, even though lip balm literally costs a dollar and we’ve already perfected it.

Why it’s bad

If your MS’er is already into a hobby, then have at it, but don’t go giving us new shit to do. My interests include naps and not washing my hair. If I have to cook it, build it, or keep it alive, it’s not a gift, it’s an assignment; and you’re dead to me. Know that I will eat the sprinkles out of your cookie-making kit as I stare at the bag of flour wondering what I did to make you hate me.

What to get instead

Give something that says I encourage you to do nothing. I know it’s winter, and I support your decision to not go outside.

Low-key rigour mortis rn

Karl Lagerfeld said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” While it’s true the chronic illness uniform can be heavy on the leisure side of the athleisure lewk, it’s also true that Karl Lagerfeld is dead. He can’t hurt you anymore. Splurging on lounge wear is the ultimate gift because wearing fleece in the outside world is kinda the dream.

Someone please buy me these.

The mobility aid gift

Gifts in this category include canes, rollators, transport chairs, or anything remotely medical, like a shower stool, or a reaching tool, or the bucket I just bought to wash my feet in.

 

Why it’s bad

You guys know how I feel about boss mobility aids, but mobility aids are personal, and you should tread lightly.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, a couple of friends told me they’d considered buying me a cane for Christmas. I was in the relapsing remitting stage of MS and my wobbly gait was temporary, but that’s not the point. I hadn’t processed what was happening to me. I wasn’t emotionally ready to start using a mobility aid. Even if a device would have made me safer, that was a decision I needed to make on my own. If they had succeeded in foisting a cane on me, it wouldn’t have felt like a gift, but an indictment on how I was(n’t) looking after myself.

What to get instead

If your loved one is already using a mobility aid, go for it. We can never have too many beautiful canes to match all our outfits; and these days, a styling stick is a gift I’d love to receive. Cool canes abound at every price point, but I’m currently coveting the iconic Alexander McQueen skull cane, if anybody’s asking.

Proud to have partnered with the North American promotion of the ByAcre rollator (ends December 12th).

The trick with gifting mobility aids is to stay in your lane. If your Tripper is using a cane, don’t upgrade them to a rollator unless they’ve asked. Or consider gifting cash to throw towards a dream device. If there’s a wheelchair user in your life, check out the stunning accessories at Ffora a company that’s poised to be a game-changer in the accessible fashion industry.  

The sick person present

Gifts in this category include tea, heating pads, a colouring book full of mandalas, a mug with cats on it. Maybe that neck massager from the “As Seen On TV” pop-up; basically anything you might find in a hospital gift shop.

Why it’s bad

Last year I wrote about the heating blanket that made me cry. This present came from The Banker; and if gifts help us define relationships, the message I received (shivering consumptive), was not the one I was trying to deliver (sexy glam wife). The thing is, not everything has to be about MS.

What to get instead

I can’t speak for everyone, but if you’re shopping for moi, look for something with sequins or glitter. Is it shiny or sparkly? If you’re more likely to find it at CVS than Sephora, put it down. I’m almost never not thinking about MS; gifts that remind me of other parts of me are always appreciated.

I am exactly this easy to shop for.

The charitable donation present

You wanna help, so you donate to a charity looking to cure or support MS.

Why it’s bad

I mean, it’s fine. I guess.

What to get instead

Please don’t stop donating to charities that fund MS research; however, contributing to the cause can come in more ways than one, and there’s nothing quite like a customized gift to let your loved one know you see them.

Artist and Fellow Tripper Lindsey Holcomb is flipping the switch on how we think about our MS. When I reflect on my black-and-bleak, damaged-and-diseased looking MRI’s, I feel a pit in my stomach and mild hostility toward my own body. Well, Lindsey is having none of that. Through a project she developed called #colorsofms, Lindsey is giving us a whole new option for how we contemplate MS by transforming MRI’s into stunning works of art.

 
When I see these images, I don’t feel like the grim-reaper has handed me my report card. These brains are complex and capable, fantastical and brilliant. Instead of invoking anxiety, these MRI’s inspire awe.

Lindsey’s art project is on a massive scale with plans to have these images on view in public spaces like hospitals, clinics, and at global MS conferences. But you can commission Lindsey to have your loved one’s own MRI reimagined.

Check out Lindsey’s website and Insta.

 

 

Happy shopping and happy holidays! You got this.

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