Finding That Passion
The changes that come while living with Multiple Sclerosis can be fast and furious or they can prod along slowly over decades. No matter how long it takes, there are a large number of those diagnosed whose lives have been completely uprooted, completely altered from what they expected. For many, the changes we experience can dramatically affect our happiness and our ability to socialize. We often feel like we’ve lost control of our lives. Depression and feelings of isolation run rampant in the MS community. While I constantly battle these issues, I am often asked what helps me deal with the often sudden, unexpected, and constant upheaval that MS casts upon our lives. My number one advice, is to talk always to a professional, because proper mental health care is vital with this disease (you need more than a neurologist). The second thing I like to suggest is to find something to get into, something to be passionate about.
As my body began to deteriorate more and more, I could no long engage in some of my favorite hobbies, namely playing hockey and running. When things got to the point that I ended up on disability, I also began to see my friends less and less; even now, I don’t get out as much as I should or would like. It’s incredibly rough to not be able to do any of the things you once did for fun. Having something that provides joy is essential in fighting this disease. Aside from fun, having an interest to escape to can be vital, particularly on the rough days. With our life circumstances changing so much, we need to be open to new interests. Finding a new, even unexpected interest, can be extremely helpful when trying to improve our lives. A hobby is one word for it, but I prefer the word passion. Finding the right passion can not only help you relieve the stress that can be deadly to us, but it can also help us get the social contact we require.
I discovered the most unlikely of passions for a man that is now nearly in his 40s, toys. While I’ve discussed how important LEGOs are to my life, they are not the only toys that have helped me, nor were they the first. On one of my saddest and toughest days with the disease, I purchased a G.I. Joe action figure online. It was a remake of a favorite I had as a kid and I don’t even know how I came across it. For some reason, this brought me a ton of happiness. I discovered a hobby that I assumed had existed but that I had never given any thought to. Years later, I have a massive G.I. Joe and Star Wars action figure collection. At one point, my collection was even mentioned in a fan publication (Geez, at this point, it’s like I’m just revealing every part of me that could possibly prevent me from ever getting a date again!). I had some misconceptions about the people in this hobby, turns out a lot of people collect things like this, and they aren’t all like Steve Carrell’s character in The 40 Year Old Virgin (I mean, yea, there are a few folks like that, but not most).
Helping me socialize and exercising my brain
After doing this for some years now, one of the things I realize I enjoy the most about it, is not just my physical collection (that may actually be the least important part), but the discussions I have with people about the hobby, the reading up and researching that’s involved (that, like LEGOs, has been very beneficial for my cognitive issues). I started to realize that this hobby, which has very much become a passion, has helped me socialize, has exercised my brain, and maybe most importantly, has given me a distraction from the worst parts of my life. Collecting toys, as silly as it may sound to some, has been crucial to my survival with MS. If I didn’t have an interest like this, I’m not sure what would happen to me.
Obviously, I’m not saying that everyone should collect or get into toys, but I do think everyone needs to find something. Maybe it’s something you used to be interested in, maybe it’s something you’ve never delved into before. Even the exploratory process is beneficial. Maybe you try making some art, even though you were bad at it before. Maybe you try bird watching, or dressing up your dogs and photographing them, or coloring, or you get into the world of anime, or classic movies or whatever. There are so many things you can pour yourself into, regardless of your level of disability. Most interests have thriving online communities too, giving you a chance to talk about more than MS. When our disease makes us stop working or changes our life in other unexpected ways, that can be an amazing opportunity to begin exploring yourself, a chance to discover a passion that you never knew you had. A passion that will bring numerous benefits along with it.
Do you celebrate your MS Anniversary?