one person smiling in a crowd of people frowning

Smiling Despite the Unpredictability of MS

“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

The diagnosis was determined

The diagnosis was determined. The family surrounded you while they tried to lovingly tell you that you have this illness called multiple sclerosis. It has no cause or cure. They watch you carefully, waiting for your response. Hoping you won’t fall apart.  Wanting to hold you close.

And you smile

Hit with an exacerbation weeks after giving birth

As days turn into months, you and your spouse begin to plan a family. You give birth to a beautiful, healthy child, and breathe a sigh of relief that he has ten beautiful fingers and toes. Weeks later you are hit with an exacerbation, forcing you to reach out for help with your newborn as you try to manage the myriad of side effects that comes with steroids.

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And you smile.

Choosing to become a stay-at-home mom

You choose to stay home, raising your child by becoming active in the PTA, arranging school activities, helping with homework and lovingly parent as you battle the daily difficulties of living with an autoimmune disease.

And you smile.

“If you smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow, you'll see the sun come shining through, for you.”

Held back by chronic fatigue

Your child is growing up and becomes a bright, self-assured young man. You decide it’s time for your own career. That choice is your passion, but even passions must be properly managed if you have MS. The daily fatigue that envelops you is the one that holds you back from doing everything you want to do. Napping, resting and taking it easy are not in everyone’s vocabulary, but they are a necessity in yours.

And you smile.

Longing for the day when MS will be a distant memory

Life is delicious, and your thirst for it is what makes you tick. You want to do it all, see it all and live it all.  But some days are good ones and some are not. They are as unpredictable as your disease, and as much as you’ve made peace with having MS, you long for the day when having it will be a distant memory.

When you won’t need to plan one activity a day, or every other day. You won’t need to nap before you go out, or rest halfway through an outing. You won’t need to explain to people why you can’t keep up with them, why you need to cancel plans or why you can look good but not feel good.

And you smile.

We all have two choices

I choose to smile. When you think about it, it’s really very simple: we all have two choices. We can be angry and upset, focusing on what we can’t do, what we don’t have, and asking ourselves the question that will never be answered, “Why me?”

Or we can smile, focusing on what we can do, while reminding ourselves that, as Jon Kabat-Zinn famously said, “There is more right with you than wrong.”

I quite agree.

So I smile.

“Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near.

That's the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what's the use of crying.
You'll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.” ~Charlie Chaplin

NOTE: Multiple sclerosis is different for everyone. The basis for this post is from life experience with my own MS during diagnosis, pregnancy, childbirth, and midlife.

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