Monstrous March: Not Letting Past Experiences Own You

Last updated: June 2018

As I am writing this, we have officially crossed over into the month of March. An exciting time for many, as spring is right on the horizon. It is often a hopeful month for those that anxiously await nicer weather and longer days. For me, however, it’s a terrifying time. While I too long for spring to have finally sprung, I can’t help experiencing a nagging fear in the back of my head. I dread this month, because in my nearly two decades with Multiple Sclerosis, I have often experienced relapses and worsening symptoms in this month. Whether my problems occurring in this month are a coincidence or not, my real concern right now is not letting the fear of those past moments influence my current health. Sometimes, our biggest trigger of symptoms can be worrying that they will occur.

This crappy month of mine

My concern about the month sounds weird, I know. March, along with late October/Early November, are the times when I’ve generally had either a full on exacerbation with new symptoms or the dramatic worsening of existing symptoms. Perhaps it’s the temperature fluctuations, who knows (though I will say, the only months when I haven’t had some worsening were when I lived in a steadier climate in California), something else, or really just a coincidence. Either way, I dread these months because of my bad experiences with them. The more times something bad happens to you, I think the more you are naturally going to start having concerns about it. Stress is bad for us, it can worsen symptoms and in some cases bring on a full exacerbation. At what point is knowing that enough to actually cause the stress? I’m trying to be very cognizant that, yes, it’s March, bad things have happened in it, but that doesn’t mean they will keep happening.

Dangerous expectations

While I’m using my example of the month of March being a concern for me, it was actually a friend of mine who gave me the idea to talk about this. She’s been going through some relationship problems that have been incredibly stressful. One of her constant concerns she voices to me, is that she is worried the stress of the situation will cause her to experience an exacerbation. It’s happened to her in the past, so it’s in her mind that it might happen again. While that is a legitimate concern, I began to worry that her fear of it was enough to actually be the stress that causes an exacerbation, not her original problem. It seemed that she was getting stressed about the potential effects of another stress. Wow, that’s a lot of stress.

Don’t force potential problems to become real

I think this situation is probably more common among people with MS than we realize. Not only with bad months and stressful situations, but with many triggers. I know I also get worked up when I find out I’m around people that are sick or around children because my compromised immune system makes me catch every little bug out there. The same concern happens to me when I know it’s going to be a hot day. Previous bad experiences have made my body recoil at the thought of some situations. It’s understandable and it’s important to take precautions for all of those scenarios. However, it’s important to not get too worked up about them. Take solace in knowing you are doing whatever you can to prevent it, but leave it at that. Fixating on a potential problem is a sure way to make that problem become a reality.

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