A person sits looking a calendar overlaid on top of a winding path and landscape with different seasons in each day.

Why Popeye Was Wrong About People

Popeye the Sailor Man was a comic book and cartoon film icon for decades. One of his signature lines went along the lines of “I am what I am, and dats all what I am.”

This is where I tell you that Popeye was wrong. People can change. Everyone must adapt to changing circumstances by making changes in their lives and in themselves. This is especially true for MS patients and their families. The only predictable course of the disease is that it will always throw curveballs at you.

Change is inevitable

There is no such thing as a normal course of life. Even the best life has unexpected twists and turns. Changes can occur suddenly like potholes on a highway. You’re going to hit some eventually and the key is how you handle them.

When you or someone you care about is diagnosed with MS or another chronic disease, life is no longer "normal." But at the end of the day, how do you even define normal for those without chronic illness?

Even so, about one in three adults worldwide suffer from two or more chronic conditions so normal truly looks different for everyone.1 It might make more sense to acknowledge that getting sick or facing a chronic challenge during one’s life is normal. More importantly, changes in life and in our individual health are normal.

Change is a part of our "new normal"

We accept, even embrace, Mother Nature’s change of seasons. Fall’s slight chill provides relief from the heat and humidity of Summer. We flock to New England to see lush green leaves turn a beautiful yellow, orange, and red.

Yet, many of us rebel against the inevitable changes in our lives. Rather than adapt, some folks become angry.

MS patients do not enjoy the luxury of fighting change or indulging themselves in self-pity. It is common for the path of MS to change. Patients experience additional symptoms, or their existing symptoms worsen. They experience a “new normal.

Tips for embracing change

While embracing change may be out of the question, I think acceptance is more of a realistic ask. Our life conditions change in ways we don’t expect or desire. It is critical to learn from these changes, master them, and evolve in a healthy way.

One way to deal with changes in MS is to take a disease-modifying therapy. Others include getting more rest, delegating more tasks to support partners, or even relocating to a place with a more hospitable climate. There are dozens of strategies for navigating change. Here are just a few...

  • Acknowledge the changes because denying them will just set you back.
  • Recognize that stress from change, even positive change, is normal.
  • Use the stress you feel from change as motivation to do what you must to adjust your life and reduce your stress.
  • Talk it over with family, friends, or a health professional.

You are not a stone figure and you are not Popeye either. You are a living, breathing, thinking being with the innate ability to change so you can thrive.

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