May was mental health awareness month and there were certainly lots of public service announcements aired on television and broadcast on the internet in various forms. But just because the month is done, it doesn’t mean the problem has gone away or has been solved. Living with a chronic disease often strips us of our confidence and rattles our mental health because of the daily challenges and reminders of multiple sclerosis.
My challenge to each of us is to find ways to rediscover our old selves in whatever form that might be.
Rediscovering old hobbies with MS
My personal example is based on the years I have loved to bake. I would bake after work. I would bake on the weekends. I would bake old favorites and I’ll confess to more than once, stealthily tearing recipes out of magazines in doctor waiting rooms so that I could try that delicious-sounding morsel on my own. Baking was and still is my form of therapy. I get lost in the process of baking and forget the everyday problems.
The positive side of being stuck inside
As multiple sclerosis has changed my mobility and stamina, I had all but given up on baking, feeling like it was lost to me forever. By a stroke of sheer luck, we had our kitchen remodeled right at the beginning of the pandemic. Locked in for a couple of years with nothing much else to do and having a brand new kitchen, I once again embarked on the challenge of baking familiar favorites and looking for new recipes on the internet, since doctor waiting room magazines were a thing of the past.
Sharing my baking creations
Friends and family on social channels were subjected to photos of my hits and misses in the kitchen. I shared photos of English muffins, all sorts of variations of rhubarb, and way too many migliaccios (Neapolitan Semolina Cake). I have found the perfect banana muffin recipe that my youngest granddaughter goes crazy for, or at least as nuts as a one-year-old can be. There are way too many recipes to continue mentioning here so you will have to take my word for it at this time.
My mental shift
So what changed? It wasn’t just the new kitchen that kept me jazzed up over the past couple years. It was a change of attitude and a new approach toward baking that made all the difference. Instead of looking for immediate gratification from a hot something from the oven, I embraced recipes that took time to make.
Making adjustments for my MS
The English muffin recipe I have declared the winner is made over two-three days that I can slow down or speed up as my needs dictate. The banana muffin recipe is so simple, it is done in one bowl under 30 minutes from start to finish. Everything I make these days is either fast and easy or slow and split into small amounts of effort and time. I made a lemon cake with a blueberry cheesecake filling that took three days to finish. There is no way I can spend 3-4 hours continuous in the kitchen like I once did, but I can manage small bites of time.
Bringing back joy
In the process of all this baking, I rediscovered a part of me that had been lost to MS – the joy of doing something I can really embrace and brings me happiness. Never mind the extra pounds that piled on or the skyrocketing A1C count – I rediscovered me! Now when I start to feel the need for a dose of therapy, I think of what I can bake next. It really is my therapy, and at one point, I allowed my MS to steal that from me.
What can you rediscover?
So let’s go back to my challenge to you - What do you love to do? What did you like to do that you feel MS has taken from you? How can you adapt your interests to your abilities?
If you love to read but have optic neuritis, try some audio books. If you love gardening but your stability won’t allow you to trust bending over, try using some raised garden boxes. If you can no longer take long walks but still want to appreciate nature, check out some of the excellent nature shows on tv or the internet.
I hope something here inspires you to rediscover yourself and I would love to hear what that might be.
Wishing you well,
Does anyone else in your family have MS?