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Trying to Look Forward not Backwards

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2010 at the age of 20; the year is now 2017 and my time with MS has been… eventful? Sure, compared to most people who have MS 7 years (a little less than that actually) is nothing but so much has happened in that time that it feels like it has been a lifetime! Not to mention the fact that 7 years to me, someone who is 26 years old, is almost a quarter of my entire life whereas 7 years to someone who is older than I am is a smaller fraction of their life. But that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that in the almost 7 years since I was diagnosed with MS I have never seen a therapist about dealing with this disease and coming to terms with the new realities I am always faced with. Now, whether my coping mechanisms are healthy or not (I am pretty sure most of them are not) I have survived thanks to one in particular; “always look forward and never look back”.

Dwelling on your problems

Even before MS came into my life I suffered from severe depression that I spent years trying to manage and get ahold of and what I learned was that I had to stop dwelling on the “problems” in my life and focus on moving forward. After being diagnosed with MS I realized that this same “rule” applied; don’t dwell on the past, on what was, or what could have been and instead focus on moving forward towards a better future. Just like they say “don’t look down” while someone is crossing a bridge or climbing a tall ladder or whatever I have always told myself to “not look back” while I am working my way forward because looking back often causes me to fall into a horrible depression

Trying to look forward

So I try, I try to focus on looking forward and not backwards and for the most part I do just fine with it but every once in a while I end up peaking… I look back despite my trying so hard not to. There have been times (for example) where a song will come on that is heavy with memories from my past, memories that I did not even know I had! And as soon as the music starts playing those memories start leaking into my mind and the longer I let myself listen the more the pressure builds until eventually the flood gates burst open and flood my head with memories of my past before MS. That quickly leads to feelings of regret (shoulda-woulda-coulda) and longing for a time before I was hit with the train called MS. By thinking about my life before MS I inevitably start thinking about all the things I used to be able to do that I no longer can; I am now dwelling on what I can’t do instead of what I can. I am dwelling on all my problems, which is exactly what I taught myself to not do when depression was the biggest problem I faced in my life.

Looking back

I know that the vast majority of people with MS deal with this in some way shape or form, I talk to people all the time dealing with this exact issue and I tell them the same thing I tell myself, “focus on moving forward, don’t look back, focus on what you can do not what you can’t”. But thinking about the past is not 100% avoidable because sometimes you hear that one song, taste that one taste or smell that one smell; that one thing that instantly brings you back to another time and place, another life. Now in the case of my first example? A song? I usually try to turn it off right away; I try to convince myself that I just hate that song and that I always have so that I will never sit and listen to it and therefore not really reminisce but every once in a while? I just can’t help it and I end up hating myself for it.

Seeking help

I think what is most difficult for me is knowing that I have reached a point where even if I could somehow reverse 50% of the damage my body has accumulated I know that I will probably never be able to do a lot of the things I once could so my memories of when I could do those things are all I really have right now. But I don’t want to be that guy who looks at his past like it was the zenith of life; I am only 26 years old, life should be getting better for me and though I don’t know how I know it will so long as I keep looking forward. But again, I am pretty sure there are better, healthier ways to deal with this problem so I think it is finally time that I start trying to get in to talk to someone who helps people deal with disabilities/illnesses for a living instead of me essentially just trying to sweep my problems under the rug. Maybe the healthier tactic will be to confront my past instead of avoiding it? Who knows? All I know is that for now? I am trying to look forward and not backwards. One day at a time.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Dimitri
    2 years ago

    As much as I cringe to admit, apparently I am going through the textbook 5 stages of grief. My therapist pointed that out.

    Denial? Check. After my first doctor’s appointment where I lost the ability to use my legs and the idea of MS started floating around (because my cousin had ms). I was in complete denial. Would a person with MS be able to go to the gym and bench this much? No, my cousin was frail and used a cane.

    Anger? Meh. I don’t think I’m angry, but more than one person has pointed out how much I have changed. They actually used the words angry and bitter and not fun. So maybe/probably.

    Bargaining? Sure. When I first started researching MS I came across all the success with stem cells. So I was all naive like this ms is no big deal. They’re going to just use stem cells to cure ms. I’ll take ms as long as I have a stem cell procedure to fix me.

    Depression? Well I’m on a SSRI.

    Acceptance? For some reason I’m having difficulties with this one. I think it’s my expectations of what the future holds for me and life with ms. As well as accepting how much I lost.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    yes, that is something many people go through. Not sure I ever did but I am definitely struggling to accept some of my new realities in recent years,

  • Dimitri
    2 years ago

    Good luck!!!

    I’ve been diagnosed for about 1.5 years now and I’ve been seeing a therapist for about a year up until last month. I stopped going because I hit a road block. I couldn’t accept this new reality.

    This is insane. I don’t think I understand what “accepting” means anymore. Obviously I really don’t have a choice about having or not having MS. I have it. What I got out of my therapist was that I should just acquiesce and give in to having MS. I just can’t do that because I have this mentality that if I “accept” having MS then MS has won. I don’t want to be friends with MS . I just want it out of my life. I want to kill it. As you can see, I’m a And I thought a fighting spirit was necessary when fighting illnesses.

    But what you said about looking forward and not getting distracted I totally agree. I tried mindful meditation and it really does help. Live in the moment. My big problem was that my attention span is so poor that I would forget what I was supposed to be doing haha.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    “Accepting” that you have MS does not mean “surrendering” to it. Trust me, I am just as stubborn as you say you are. A fighter. A survivor. Accepting that you have MS simply means learning how to live with the constant fight required to NOT let MS win and a GOOD therapist should be able to help us learn how to do that. In the almost 7 years I have had MS I have not seen a therapist but I still understand the goal of therapy for people with a chronic disease like MS. I only want to learn how to cope with all this better, not give in. So many people have already made it to that point and they did not give in or give up, that is what I want, what I need.

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