My life has changed immeasurably over the past 10 years. This time in 2007, I was relatively newly married, working full time and just enjoying my evenings and weekends with hubby with no cares in the world. Fast-forward to 2017 and instead of being a happy-go-lucky newly wed, I am a 30-something disabled wife and mother, who is struggling with work.
Its easy for me to say that things have changed for the worse; my MS progression has lead to huge lifestyle changes and every day challenges that I didn’t have before. But if I really think about it, with these negatives also come some positives. Maybe not so obvious, but they are there, nonetheless.
Then: I was healthy; strong, flexible, energetic
I used to love going out for runs and exercise to at-home DVDs of HIIT work-outs before they became super stylish. I was a member of our local gym and attended yoga classes, proud that I was able to get my legs over my head in a ‘plough’ and to maintain a ‘tree’ pose. What spurred me on then was admittedly vanity; I wanted to make sure that I maintained a healthy weight so that I could justify all the chocolate and pizza I was eating. I had energy; expenses permitted, Hubby and I would occasionally go on city breaks, wandering around exploring and shopping all day before having a night on the town.
Now: I am determined and appreciative
Nothing makes you appreciate what you do have until you lose a great deal of what you could do. I would be lying if I said that my lack of mobility doesn’t monumentally piss me off – sorry for the language but ‘prettying it up’ wouldn’t accurately describe how I feel – but I have also learned to appreciate what I still have. I can’t walk long distances, but I can still walk, albeit in a stumbling, wonky way with crutches. I can’t carry out HIIT work-outs, but with the support of a chair, I can still do exercises that will help to keep my muscles toned. I am determined to keep whatever mobility and strength that I have. And this time, it isn’t for vanity’s sake; it is because I want my body to work as best as it can. Following the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS) programme makes me feel like I am doing everything in my power to help myself. And I am not just determined to do everything I can to help myself, I know that I will do everything I can for my children to reduce their risk of being diagnosed with MS by encouraging them to also adhere to a healthy lifestyle as much as possible – not always easy with 6 and 9 year olds.
Then: I was cheerful, happy and adventurous
I’ve always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, always looking on the bright side. If I’m honest, I always had little time for people who seemed permanently grumpy; now, I get it. I am that constantly grumpy person. Over the past 10 years, I have definitely had loads of overwhelmingly happy moments; the births of our 2 children and having the privilege of seeing them grow into lovely, kind and very cheeky little kids that always keep us on our toes and a 15,000 foot tandem skydive, are the highlights. But, as my husband said to me the other day ‘I miss you walking around with a smile on your face; you always seem to be struggling’.
Now: I am mindful and reflective
It is easy to present a different persona to the world outside. Even my neurologist said to me last time we went, ‘you always have a smile on your face’. My husband just laughed; he knows the truth. So, I am aware that I am not as happy as I was once was. I think about this a lot and try and takes steps towards trying to increase my happiness quota: doing things that I enjoy such as blogging, crochet and sitting with friends sharing a bottle of wine. I find myself more mindful, appreciating the little things every day – like when our daughter still comes into our room for a cuddle on a Saturday morning at 6:30am, enjoying the fact that she still wants to instead of feeling frustrated at my interrupted sleep. Enjoying new daffodils, freshly brewed coffee and a good film. Taking time out for self care, such as adapted yoga stretching and meditation.
My life has changed immeasurably over the past 10 years and I have no doubt that my MS is not the only reason for that. Being a parent and inching towards 40 would change everyone, I’m sure.
How has your life changed as a result of a chronic illness diagnosis? What are the positives?