The Lessons We Learn along the Way
Last updated: August 2022
Despite being seemingly never-ending, we can view the ups and downs of MS from many perspectives. Being easy to despise, MS holds a broad spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I routinely sigh and grit my teeth when dealing with this disease.
What MS has taught me
This isn't all that MS has to offer. Although MS has a lot of negatives surrounding it, I would like to take a moment to share a few lessons learned and nuggets of wisdom. After all, those aspects should, if possible, get more airtime in the highlight reel of daily life with multiple sclerosis.
Tenacity and grit
I've considered myself stubborn and headstrong for most of my life, but there is no comparing the time before and after MS entered my life. The sheer amount of willpower, grit, and tenacity it sometimes takes to brave through every turn can be staggering.
To sit calmly and patiently in the face of adversity and hardship is a skill that takes ages to build but is endlessly rewarding. It's a valuable skill in everyday life but a lifesaver when MS does what MS wants.
Whenever we get to see both sides of the coin, we can start to understand it better. Although it's more comfortable deciding on one side and sticking with it, MS can force us to acclimate our minds to seeing life from places we didn't know we had to visit.
In the same way, we can learn from travel or doing something outside of our comfort zone. We learn from removing ourselves from what we take for granted. Putting what we know up against what we don't make us understand our world better. In many ways, MS is teaching me to stop, breathe and take a "gray zone"-approach. It's a slow habit to master, but I'm getting there.
I need to start giving more credit to this skill. I used to think gratitude was a lofty promise to ourselves or a cheap way to dodge the tough questions in life. But that's not true. You don't have to be grateful for MS to be grateful for the things it can teach you. The list of things I wish MS could have spared me from is long.
Despite that, I've grown into a person I can truly start to appreciate. Not because of my limitations, but because of how I've chosen to adapt to them. I keep messing up, and I feel grateful when the failure steers me in a better direction. Sometimes I have to curse and be resentful for a while, though - and that's perfectly fine.
I might be a bit biased on this topic as I both studied and currently work in communications. Learning how to communicate the intricacies and emotional landscape of MS has made me a better listener, a more direct speaker and given me more confidence in my words.
Our bodies also communicate with us all of the time, and MS throws that whole process into a confusing whirlwind. When you think of it, MS is a disease of miscommunication. The different parts of the body don't communicate how they should, and we must learn to accept that. But we also have to learn how to listen to our bodies differently, and sometimes not listen at all. It's strange to think of my body as a liar, but sometimes I think it's true.
Oh, and phone reminders. Seriously, I don't know how my life would function without them. My foggy brain is endlessly grateful.
The lessons change every day
These are some of the lessons and pearls of wisdom I've collected along the way. Being optimistic and grateful for these things can be vulnerable because I could wake up tomorrow and curse everything about MS.
Honestly, most days, I don't want to give credit to MS for anything. I want to dislike it with a passion. I think it's perfectly fine to both despise it and draw wisdom from it. In Swedish, we have this word, 'lagom,' which means "not too much, not too little," or "just right." I think most things in life become more manageable when we do it lagom.
I encourage you to write a similar list of lessons you've learned since MS became a part of your life. My list keeps changing, and some days all I want to write is, "MS has taught me that it's a crappy disease." Or "MS keeps teaching me that it never stops being frustrating to forget why I went to the kitchen." I'm glad there is also room in that list for what I've written in this post.
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: