How do you get over what life has dealt you, if it’s something that’s so bad that sometimes you can’t even bare it? Do you even get over it?
I don’t think you do get over it, I think that you learn to adapt to it.
MS has challenged the way that I feel about myself and my life. In the past, I was definitely a ‘glass half full’ person – I’ve stated before that, as I didn’t have very many MS problems, I didn’t see any need to change my lifestyle or even to think about the fact that I had this life changing diagnosis. I like to think that, on the whole, I still tend to look on the bright side – but maybe with the occasional chink of negativity.
I’m often get told that I’m ‘so strong’ and that I deal with my MS ‘so well’. But what is the alternative? To admit defeat and curl up into a ball, having no life at all? No thanks. Instead, I guess that I just try not to think of the ‘what ifs’ and to just get on with my life as it is now. Yes, adaptations and changes need to be made, but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily swapping a brilliant life for a crappy one; I still love my life and try and make the most of it, regardless of my MS.
‘Getting on with it’ is not always easy, of course, but others might not see that. I’m definitely one for moaning about my thoughts and feelings on my blog, for instance, but, on the whole, I try to silently work though the hard times. Why? I guess that I don’t want to burden others with my problems and I worry that others won’t ‘get it’, though I know good friends and family are always willing to listen. But, perhaps more so, I internalise my thoughts and feelings because I have found ways to help me work though them. Through trial and error, I have discovered certain activities that I know help me to deal with all the changes that have happened to me, both health-wise and lifestyle-wise. I think the key is finding things that bring me joy and a sense of relaxation:
I was super sceptical when I first started to meditate – I just couldn’t fully relax and was put off by hearing my children, or random thoughts in my head. You’re meant to try and let thoughts ‘float away’, like balloons – but how can I do that when my children were screeching downstairs?! It took a while, but I mastered it, by doing it at a time when I wouldn’t be interrupted (the kids were in bed!) and by starting slowly, 10 minutes at a time. The Headspace app was my saviour here – Andy, who leads the meditations, just sounded so normal and, by day six of the free, 10 day trial package, I actually felt calmer and more in control of my day-to-day life. I like Headspace and pay a subscription now, but there are free apps that you can try if you fancy music or guided mediation, for example Calm or Insight Timer.
My craft of choice is crochet, but I also like sewing and even colouring with my little girl, as a way to ‘get away from it all’. I find that, once I get started, I can often zone out – again it is bit meditative. I’m doing a Christmas floral wreath-making class soon and I’m looking forward to doing it with my friend and our Mums. I’m guessing that I will have to concentrate a lot so won’t have time to dwell on any negative thoughts! Crafts can come in all shapes and sizes – story-writing, painting, flower arranging – and the pride of a finished project can lead to such a positive boost in mood.
Another meditative mood booster for me, though I have swapped running for adapted yoga, due to my mobility issues. I don’t always have the energy to do it but, when I do, I feel such a difference, both in my mood and in the flexibility of my limbs. I remember when I was younger using exercise to release my frustrations – Tai Bo anyone? The punching moves were a lifesaver when I realised that I was being cheated on by the boyfriend I had in my late teens!
One thing that I love about my job, and really missed when I had time off for extended sick leave (due to my MS symptoms) is the fact that I help children. The kids that I work with are unlikely to get better without my intervention and, just the other day, a lovely little boy that I am working with gave me a spontaneous hug at the end of the session, which was just so lovely and made me feel so appreciated. I know that I will have to find something to fill that gap when I eventually have to cease my current work, due to my MS. I also volunteered at a friend’s charity coffee morning in aid of Pancreatic Cancer recently and, though I was just helping by selling cakes, doing something for bigger reasons than myself made me appreciate what I do have and not dwell on what I don’t.
I might not be able to walk outside now, but I can enjoy the weather using my scooter or just sitting outside in the sunshine (maybe not so much now it is almost winter!). My favourite season has always been autumn – it is not so hot or cold that it affects my MS and there is nothing like being outside in the crisp air to shake away the bad moods and cobwebs. I try to get out when I can, even if it is just to tend to my pot plants or to scoot into town for a coffee. I never really realised how much I missed the outdoors until I was off work and spent the first month or so literally just resting in front of the telly. That was nice for a bit, but I noticed a drop in mood that was relieved when I made the effort to get out, even if just for a short while.
Just Being ‘Normal’
Sounds silly but, for me, one of the biggest things that I can do to help me not dwell on my MS and to keep positive is just to act ‘normal’ (is there such a thing?) By that, I mean my normal – doing as much to feed the interests that I have always had – gig going, reading, eating out, seeing friends. I might not be able to do these things as often as I like, due to the spoons that they can take up, but keeping myself going, by not letting my MS take over is such an important thing. Yes, I sometimes feel like an ‘MS-bore’, due to the amount that I read up on it and the fact that my illness seems to take over my whole life at times, but making the effort to ensure that it doesn’t fully grab hold of me is something that I consciously try and do.
It feels like life with chronic illness is a case of continually adapting, readjusting, accepting and succeeding. I’d love to hear tips from others as to what helps you to adapt and succeed at not letting your chronic illness take over. In the meantime, I hope that everyone has a fabulous week!