Keep Floating When Times Are Tough
If you live with multiple sclerosis, at some point, you are bound to encounter some rough times. Maybe you’re having an especially long exacerbation, or you’re fighting for a correct diagnosis, or trying desperately to be approved for disability, or you’re trying to survive the awful conditions that come with the warmer temperatures.
Coping with MS
There are so many moments that come with living with MS that can seem both hopeless and never-ending. When I go through these stretches, I try to remind myself of something: to keep floating.
When discussing the mental health challenges I’ve faced because of MS, I often mention the concept of “life preservers”. I’ve had a lot of moments, because of my life with MS, that have felt hopeless. Those times always make me feel like someone whose boat has sank, leaving me alone and fighting for survival as I bob up and down in the middle of the ocean. What do people whose boat starts sinking reach for? A life preserver. There are a lot of times when it feels like MS might swallow me up and drown me, just like the ocean might. So the concept of a life preserver seems pretty spot on to me, both figuratively (as in this drowning analogy) and literally (as it may actually save my life).
A few decades around MS has helped me learn how to be patient the hard way. Nothing good comes quickly with this disease. Exacerbations take time to pass. Treatments take a long time to be effective. Even getting to see a doctor can take a long time. I could go on and on, but if you have MS, you know firsthand how important it is to be patient. Patience is my first defense against MS drowning me. It’s my doggy paddle while I look for something else to help keep me afloat.
Personal flotation devices
While someone who is literally overboard may need a personal flotation device like a life jacket; to stop MS from drowning us, we need to turn toward some other type of life preserver. I constantly turn towards some sort of distraction to get me through these rough times. I hyper-fixate on my hobbies, or get lost in a new book, or binge-watch a new TV series. I try to focus on anything except my problems. Sometimes that means I make an effort to reach out to others and hear about what’s bothering them. Not only can that be a distraction and make you feel good by helping others, but it can also make you feel a lot less alone. Being stranded at sea is a much easier time when you aren’t out there alone.
So if you are struggling because of MS right now, remember that you need to keep floating. If you can stay afloat long enough, you'll get to land and you won’t drown. You have to actively fight for it though and find ways to get on the other side of what you are going through. Find yourself a distraction and remember you will get past this. Remember, so far, you’ve survived 100% of the days you’ve lived. It’s cliche, but it's true.
Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?