a woman meditating on a red carpet

How to Prepare for Special Occasions When Living with Multiple Sclerosis

I recently attended a red carpet gala for an award ceremony being held by my new women’s group. The group consists of over 5,000 members from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut with the purpose of enriching, supporting, and inspiring women to be their best selves. They illustrate a perfect example that I wish the world would emulate.

Kindness. Compassion. Paying it Forward. Tolerance. Charity. Understanding. Friendship.

I was excited to attend the gala with a few new friends I met since my recent move. I was a bit nervous because I was nominated for one of the awards - the Courageous Warrior Award. I had doubts I’d win since my fellow nominees also had compelling stories.

Resting up few weeks in advance

I knew I’d need to prepare for the big day a few weeks in advance. I knew it’d be a long day of activities with no time to nap. I wanted my body to feel as strong as possible.

When you live with MS you never know what any given day will bring. One day your symptoms might be tolerable, the next you can barely crawl out of bed. Your mood can change daily or weekly and your anxieties might run the gamut from being unreasonable to a full-blown depression.

Issues with special family celebrations

For example, the month of December is a busy one in our family. My son’s birthday is seven days before my husband’s. The three of us honor their special days by eating at the restaurant of the birthday boy’s choice. I love their choices, and in past years never gave it a second thought. But my recent digestive diagnoses makes eating out not only problematic but at times a nightmare.

I adore my husband and son with all my heart and celebrating their birthdays is something I always look forward to. I am mindful of these celebratory days, knowing that life moves fast.

Fearful that my body will fail me

These days I’m fearful that my body will fail me. Between MS and gut issues, I’m frightened I’ll be too sick or tired to go, or that food from the restaurant will cause my gut issues to flare.

I’m always fearful I’ll need to stay behind. Over the years I’ve missed more special occasions than I care to remember, staying behind when my body dictated it. When I do I feel sad and lonely.

Mind-body component

I’m sure there’s a mind-body component as well. Anxiety and stress are powerful and can have negative effects on our bodies. If we can find a way to strengthen that connection it may possibly pave the way for healthier living.

Weeks before the gala I began feeling my usual anxiety. I tried to visualize how it would feel to replace that anxiety with joy. I’m tired of letting my anxieties about illness get the best of me. I know we can’t control our disease, but there are ways to prepare our minds and bodies to work in harmony. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

My list to help me prepare

After doing some research and soul searching I created a list to help me prepare for the upcoming gala and for any future events as well. Special occasions, plans with friends, family parties, speaking engagements, medical appointments, travel, conferences, or any plans that trigger my emotions - these are all the target for my list.

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Meditate at least five minutes a day.
  • Spend time outdoors and focus on your breathing.
  • Exercise. Even five minutes a day of slow walking.
  • Visualize a healthy body and mind, and a successful event.
  • Play with your pets. Those furry babies are the perfect antidote for whatever ails you.
  • Follow a healthy diet. For me, that means no gluten, dairy or sugar.
  • Have a conversation with a trusted loved one, qualified therapist or spiritual advisor about your anxieties.
  • Plan the day of the event ahead of time, such as an outfit or logistics, such as transportation, extra tickets, or maps.
  • Make a list of what needs to be done in advance and on the day of the event.
  • Call the venue to find out about accessibility.

Feeling more confident and in control

Preparing for an event helps me feel more confident and in control, and makes it less likely for the need to cancel. I hope it helps you as well. That said, don’t be hard on yourself when, despite all your best efforts, you need to cancel. Life happens, and so does MS. We can only do the best we can.

P.S. By the way, I won the Courageous Warrior award! I was thrilled and the audience could not have been lovelier to me. I talked about Multiple Sclerosis in my acceptance speech, explaining what it was and wasn’t. Telling an entirely new audience about MS was thrilling. When the ceremony was over a few people spoke to me about loved ones living with the disease, then asked for my business card. Hopefully, we’ll have some new people joining our forums here at MultipleSclerosis.net!

woman at podium giving acceptance speech

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