Multiple Sclerosis Has Taught Me Life Lessons
Living with multiple sclerosis is life-changing no matter how severe or mild the symptoms may be. It can derail dreams and create detours that get you lost for a while. But MS is also a stealth teacher and constantly provides me with an education I don’t always expect. Sometimes, we have been at odds and other times, we’ve learned to coexist in a way that has helped me to develop personal strength and resilience. So today, I am sharing a few basic lessons MS has taught me over the past 15+ years. I hope they help you, too.
Be patient with yourself and others
When diagnosed with MS, you aren’t automatically issued a user manual that includes every detail of the disease, which parts apply only to your “model,” and how to troubleshoot problems that will arise. It takes time to accumulate the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate issues as they arise. Patience is key to smoothing out that learning curve — patience with yourself and patience with others.
On a related note, don’t expect others to magically know what you need, what you are thinking, or what you are experiencing. You must share what is going on if you need assistance, support, or understanding. Communication is very important when living with MS. Actually, it’s vital for getting along in life in general. So be willing to use your words wisely.
Partner with your medical team
Doctors, nurses, therapists are our partners in helping us seek the best outcomes for our health and well-being. Take the time to develop a good working relationship. Don’t expect to be “fixed” or to be a passive member of your healthcare team. Keep the lines of communication open and be honest with your physician/healthcare providers. Only with all of the relevant information can they make wise recommendations and discuss how you might tackle this disease head-on through a combination of medication management, physical activity, cognitive stimulation, mental health care, personal lifestyle choices, and other specialty care.
Be empowered with knowledge
You should be prepared to learn more about your own body, health, disease, and well-being than you ever imagined. Read up on the disease in trusted sources. Read inspiring stories of how others face their own challenges living with MS. Stay on top of the latest understandings about MS symptoms, causes, treatments, research, etc. Don’t become obsessed, but be curious.
Stay true to yourself
MS may change the circumstances of your life, but it can’t change who you are deep down. Watching your hopes, past dreams, and career evaporate is darn painful, but you are more than your profession or accomplishments. You are independently valuable. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, and frustrated but like any emotion, these can pass through you like wind if you allow them. Encouraging a positive attitude and new dreams to grow is an important part of taking care of yourself. With care, who you are deep down may emerge with new life and shower you with unexpected blessings.
Please know that asking for and accepting help is a sign of strength. It is important to allow others to contribute what and when they can. It makes them feel good, and it lets you focus on your own well-being. You do not need to face challenges alone. Be encouraged that someday you may be rewarded with the opportunity to help someone else on their MS journey.
Focus on what you can do today to make life better for yourself. Maybe it’s an afternoon nap or a gentle stretching session. No matter your challenges, there are thoughtful actions you can take to improve your circumstances. Practice creativity when faced with challenges. Be encouraged that flexibility in thinking and action are important ways to focus on living well, not just living with MS.
What lessons have you learned since being diagnosed with MS or any other chronic disease?
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?