Learning to Adapt: The Key to Success With MS

Recently, I wrote about the differences between the first ten years of having MS and the time after that. While many people echoed my thoughts, I also know it was a bit of a downer and pretty scary to some. I completely understand that, no one wants to think about what they see as potential impending doom. So I thought this would be a good time to address one of my overall philosophies about MS. One of the reasons I don’t mind admitting that MS is a big part of my life. For me, life with Multiple Sclerosis is simply about learning to, and being willing to, adapt.

Trust me, I’ve had my moments of doom and gloom, I’ve had a lot of crushing moments. I don’t always take every hit and get back up right away. But overall, when I look at my life (and MS has pretty much been part of my entire life), my experience tells me that we may not always be able to do everything we once did, but we can learn to adapt and still live an amazing life. Life doesn’t have to stop because you have MS, as long as you are ready and willing to work at it.

Trying something new

It’s tough, it sucks, I know. Particularly when we can’t do the things that we used to do. Just last week I saw someone out running along the side of the road and it really triggered me. I welled up with tears and thought of all the road races, the training for marathons, all the times running I enjoyed so much. Right now, running just isn’t happening, not without immediately falling on my face. I don’t ever rule anything out, but I know that right now, it’s near impossible for me. Running, and playing sports in general, were big parts of my life. They were my hobbies, even my passion. Over the years though, I’ve picked myself up, and found new passions. They may be completely different, but trust me, they are no less fulfilling. In some ways, they’re more satisfying because I was forced to adapt and try something new. I’m into things now that I never would have guessed I’d be into just a few years ago. Being forced from some things has allowed me to experience the joys of others. In some ways, I can say that I’ve experienced a bit more that life has to offer because I was forced to change. That’s kind of awesome if you think about it.

Changing the old

Adapting your way of life doesn’t necessarily mean finding something new. Another way I dealt with losing my ability to be athletic, was jumping into coaching. I eventually had to give that up too, but it was a great way of staying involved in something I loved. Even now, I’ll still pop out to the field or rink, hobble over with my cane and help out some. Even if it’s just an hour or two, talking to the kids about their technique or brainstorming with the coaches, it’s still rewarding. Point is, there are often ways to still stay involved in parts of your life that you may think are over, but you have to think outside the box a bit.

I’ve mentioned before how my cognitive issues have impacted me. One of my favorite pastimes has always been reading. From a young age, I loved reading whatever I could get my hand on. My cognitive issues have made that difficult. It takes me so much longer to finish a book now. I lose my place, I have to re-read sentences, even entire sections, because I forget what I’ve read. Sometimes even as soon as I finish reading it, it’s gone. It’s incredibly frustrating and it’s led to numerous books being thrown across the room. I’ve been adapting though. Yes, it’s slower, it’s frustrating. I have to take my time and really work to read. When I do finally finish a book, it feels like I’ve won the super bowl though. So as frustrating as it is, it might actually have a better reward at the end.

Allowing yourself to adapt

In order to live a good life with MS (or even without, in my opinion), you have to allow yourself the chance to adapt. The biggest issue for me, hasn’t been making the changes to my life, it’s been accepting that I need to make those changes. Understanding that there is nothing wrong with change. Along with that, I’ve had to learn that you can’t keep comparing the life you once had to your current life. That can seem sorrowful because it’s a disease that forced the change, but everyone goes through this at some point. You get old, or maybe you have kids, or maybe you move, or you tear your ACL, or you don’t have the same friends around anymore. Change happens, it’s life. How you deal with change is what determines your level of happiness in life, regardless of what caused that change.

So my life isn’t what it used to be. I don’t have the same friends, or hobbies, or go out as much, or do a lot of the things that I once did. In my case, the progression of MS caused those changes. But, if it wasn’t MS, who knows, something else may have caused the very same changes. Learning to accept change and being willing to work at adapting my life has made these years with MS a lot more bearable. That’s a big reason I didn’t see that article about the ten year mark as scary when I first submitted it. Progression is a very scary word to us, but, we have to remember that it doesn’t mean the end. Progression of my disease just means some more progression in my life, some more change that I have to accept, some more situations I need to adapt to. Remember that change isn’t a dirty word, it isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of something new.

Thanks for reading!


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