You Don’t Get it, MS is Stuck With Me!
"2019 is going to be my year! I'm going to do this, that; everything's gonna be great!" But not even two weeks into January, I realized that I had already messed up my New Year's resolutions. At first, I would've said that I just started the year off on a bad foot thanks to how I was feeling after the stress of the holidays but let's be honest, most of us don’t seem to stick to our New Year's resolutions for very long, do we? But man, for me? This year? That was a really fast fail! For example, instead of eating better, I ended up eating even worse than I had before because “I'm already feeling like crap, so screw it; I'm just going to eat this junk food because I'm just not feeling up to making myself a decent meal.” “Forget exercising, I just need to lie down and do nothing for a while.” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.
I was feeling terrible
And just like that, I was feeling terrible. I felt so fatigued, weak, dizzy, and I was becoming slightly depressed/unmotivated. Not exactly how I wanted the year to start off. I was quickly slipping back into the pit that I swore I would get myself out of in 2019.
Differences since I was first diagnosed
While I sat there in self-pity, I thought about how when I was first diagnosed, I had such a great attitude. "I may have MS, but MS doesn't have me." Every day, I woke up motivated to jump into the daily fight with MS and win. But over the years, I guess I grew “tired” and worn out. I slowly shut down and withdrew from life because I just didn't want to deal with it anymore; it was “too much.” “Nothing’s changing, and nothing is ever going to change.” That's when I remembered a quote from Dr. House (from the TV show House MD) that I used to have on a piece of paper above my desk. “Time changes everything, that's what people say. It's not true. Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were.” Now, it doesn't matter if you agree with that or not, but the fact of the matter is that is what I have always told myself and how I have always gotten myself motivated to keep moving forward despite MS.
The fuel of motivation
While I spent the days doing nothing because I felt like utter crap, I kept repeating this quote over and over in my head until I once again believed it to be total truth. I started getting angry at my life, but I would say it was the right kind of angry that (in healthy doses) can become the fuel of motivation, the fuel that has allowed me to get as far as I have in life with this illness. I had meant to start going on a 2-mile walk around my neighborhood every morning come the start of 2019 to get myself moving every day, but whenever I thought about stepping outside, I would come up with an excuse for why I should just stay inside and watch TV. So, I did my best to just not think about it. On my daily to-do list, I wrote down “go for a walk,” and so instead of letting myself think of reasons why I shouldn't, I just went outside and started walking.
Motivated to do a little bit more
When I got home, I looked at my FitBit (my fitness tracker watch), and I had come very close to completing the daily goals I had set for myself when I first got the watch. How long I wanted to be active, how many steps I wanted to complete, and how many flights of stairs I wanted to climb (which I actually completed because my walk involves a lot of hills, which I guess my FitBit interpreted as stairs). Anyway, because I saw the progress bar for each of these goals just under 100% complete, I became a little motivated to do just a bit more so that I could see the little star I get every time I reach 100%.
It works for me
It's kind of dumb, but I'm a “completionist,” so it works for me. After just about a week, I was already feeling a lot better: energy, motivation, and because I was focusing on my gait, even my walking seemed a little more stable. Now, I'm NOT saying I improved the status of my disease in just under a week from a few short walks. In fact, I'm guessing I could have been doing much better all this time had I actually been active instead of doing nothing and just sitting in front of the computer not moving. If anything, I would say this was the “living with a chronic illness” equivalence of splashing cold water on your face in the morning to wake up or doing light stretches to get ready for a jog.
Rolling out my change a little later than I planned
So, while I started the year off on a bad foot, that doesn't mean this year can't be a year of change for me. When I first realized that I had quickly failed to follow all my New Year's resolutions, part of me wanted to say, “Screw it, there is always 2020,” but if I did that? Things would definitely never change because you know what they say about people who always say they “will do it tomorrow,” right? “Tomorrow never comes.” Plus, the whole New Year's resolutions thing? It's totally an arbitrary start date for new goals. It doesn't matter if it's about to be a new year or if you are in the middle of the year, you can literally promise yourself to make changes in your life at any point in time! Don’t believe me? Try it sometime! You may be amazed! So, I may be rolling out my change a little later than I had wanted, but who cares? The fact remains that I am actually doing something to enact change.
Starting with attitude
The thing is, in my opinion, successfully fighting this disease starts with attitude. You need the right attitude to be successful, or at least I do. Again, when I was first diagnosed with MS, I always heard people say, “I may have MS, but MS doesn’t have me,” and while I can still argue that to be a good little motto, I know a lot of people have issues with the wording. I mean let's face it, I basically just admitted that for the last three years or so, MS has had me pinned down in this “fight.” I may not have tapped out, but you could definitely argue that MS “had me”. So, let me switch up that motto a bit to something I used to tell myself in the past: “I may have been diagnosed with MS, but MS was also diagnosed with me.” And guess what, MS? There is no cure for me so buckle up; this isn’t going to be fun for you.
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