2019 marks my fifteenth year with MS. I have officially dealt with this disease for over half of my life and started exhibiting symptoms long before that. I know this may not seem like a lot to some, but to me, it's made an enormous impact on my life. Over the course of those years, I’ve come face to face with many 'positivity haters,' as I like to call them. These people are mean and say hateful, negative things for no reason. I see so many comments on social media that say people who have a positive outlook with MS just don’t understand because they are rookies or haven’t had it long enough. I’m here to tell you, I’m sorry, but that’s not true.
Learning to look at things differently
In reality, a positive mindset is the ONLY thing that has gotten me through these last fifteen years. It has taught me so much about myself as a person, and about my body and health. I don’t look at life through rose-tinted glasses, but I want to live my life well, and part doing that has been learning to look at things differently. I know I will most likely live with this disease for the remainder of my life and will have many hard years ahead. I know things will probably get worse, as people so kindly like to remind me so often. There have already been some tough lessons learned, too, but the best thing it has taught me is that we don’t have to minimize our pains and struggles to live a joyful life still. You can still have MS, deal with it, and lead a life fueled by a positive mindset.
You can be unhappy and still choose positivity
Pain with a disease is inevitable. Physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain, we deal with them all. I have personally dealt with all of these things. I’ve mentioned quite a bit in previous articles how my MS has remained relatively stable and how I don’t have a lot of obvious physical symptoms. My heart breaks for those who do have to deal with debilitating physical symptoms, but my heart also breaks when those people tell me I’m only positive and have joy because I haven’t dealt with any of those harder symptoms. Again, I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken. If anyone should know what it’s like to look great on the outside but feel terrible on the inside, it's others with MS. I have many, many unhappy moments. I get angry, and I cry. I lash out. You can be unhappy and still choose positivity.
Working through the pain to see the positive
My positivity isn’t just an act. It has become a way of life for me. It’s the ONLY way for me. I decided long ago that even though MS is terrible, and it’s caused terrible things in my life, I can still remain positive and hopeful. I realized one day that if I was brave enough to face MS, then I was brave enough to do something positive with it. I can have days where I’m angry. I can have days where I scream into a pillow about how much this stinks. I can even have days where I have intense pain and days where I feel lost in the depths of depression. I can’t avoid all of the symptoms, but when I address how I am suffering and work through the pain, it is then that I can see the positive. And, when I look at the positive in any difficult situation, it is then that I find joy.
You don't have to minimize how bad it is
The only way I can reason that I have to go through bad things is to believe that it is going to lead to something better. I know that isn’t always reality, but this way of thinking is what has gotten me through many difficult times. My positive outlook is that extra fuel I need to keep me going. It is what fuels me to putter on through the horrible days. Face your pain, face your anger, face whatever it is you’re going through. Talk to someone. It's not just MS that has made me want to be more positive in the present, it's a lot of pain in my past, too. However, each time I open up about things and look forward, it makes me stronger and gives me back a piece of myself. You don’t have to minimize how bad it is. Address the suffering, take in all of the feelings, take a deep breath and let it all go.
The day positivity found me
The timing of my diagnosis was terrible. I was just beginning my teenage years. It was when my disease was at its worse, and I was in constant pain, and a day didn’t go by that I felt like I couldn’t keep going. I went through every single negative emotion you could go through. I went for a long time without feeling a single positive thought or feeling in my body. But, the day positivity found me that all changed. Even if the cup you’re given is bitter, drink it with grace. I want a life that speaks encouragement and restores, not discourages and destroys. I want a positive life, even if I stare hardship in the face every day.
Weathering the storms
When I merely believe that something good is going to come out of the bad, then nine times out of ten something good does happen. It may not be how I imagined, and it may take me through some treacherous storms, but in the end, I almost always look back and see “Oh, that was why I went through that.” I may not know why I went through it, but if I can look back and see that I went through something that one day helps someone else get through the same thing, then that makes it all worth it. MS has taken a lot from me. It has taken my teenage years, my energy, my strength, and my health, but it will not take my positivity!
“Never get so comfortable in pain that you forget happiness is still an option.”
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?