How MS Helped Me See What the Holidays are Really About

Living with MS, there are always three things that I think about whenever I have to go somewhere for any length of time: 1) What will the temperature be? 2) How will I get around? 3) Will I be able to find something to eat that won’t put me into a coma?

These questions might be slightly different for you, depending on your symptoms and triggers, but I’m betting you’re not thinking about what everyone else is thinking about!

It’s a little like going on vacation when we were kids – What snacks can I bring? Should I take a swim suit? What shoes should I wear?

The difference, though, is that the mood then was excitement and now it’s panic.

Then we have the holidays. I love them just as much as the next guy and my kids do as well, but my attitude has definitely shifted. It takes some work, willpower, and planning to get the most out of them these days.

For everyone else, they’re a time of excess and feasting. For me, they’re a time for discipline and dehydration!

I see posts shared on Facebook all of the time saying things like “that’s what the holidays are really about” or some other idealistic message. Does anyone really practice this or is it just a nice thought?

I’m sure that the flower-child in me would say “yeah, man - it’s about the love.” But the kid in me wants to see how much candy, stuffing, turkey, and pie I can shove in my face. Guess what? That isn’t a choice I have anymore.

MS has made me a hippie.

I get a lot out of the visits that we make at the holidays because I know there is a huge health-and-wellness benefit that comes with the interactions – not from the food. As I pay more attention to the positives, I see more of them.

We all tend to reflect the energy we receive during a conversation and that means that if we act more positive and feel more positive, the person we’re interacting with will as well. It perpetuates itself!

I see a lot of people that I haven’t talked with in quite a while. Inevitably, they’ll ask me about my health. If it’s someone I haven’t seen in a really long time, they might be surprised to see me using a cane.

You can look at this as a short-term solution to avoid the awkwardness or you can see it for the positive outlook and long-term benefit that it is.

I acknowledge it and explain it if they ask, but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t act like my dog just died and I quickly spin it if they appear to be moving in that direction.

Society has taught them that it’s what they’re supposed to do. They should avoid the awkwardness and spare their feelings at the expense of mine.

I don’t want to be treated like I’m a disappointment so I shouldn’t act that way, either.

It is what it is. I’m doing everything I can to control it and know that what I’m doing is working. I like to give them a different view of people like me. I want them to think of me first and the disease as a footnote.1

I think of it a little like the placebo effect. Why does it happen? Because you believe that this might be “the one.” You could be taking the breakthrough drug that will change your life. There is no way that it won’t work. That negative seed was never planted.

Your attitude works the same way. There is research to show that your brain (i.e. your thoughts) and your immune system are connected. Heck, there’s even a name for it: psychoneuroimmunology.

Keep it positive while avoiding the negative and you help your body naturally heal itself. Be negative and look for the negative (i.e. complain) and you’re going to find it. I promise.

Your body will respond to that, too. Think of the clammy palms, butterflies in your stomach, and weak knees when you’re nervous.

That’s not just a coincidence – that’s your mind affecting your body.

When I act happy with my life and appreciate the little things, it perpetuates itself and I feel better. We feel better for a reason, you know?

I think of the positive energy this creates, too. Be a positive person, despite your circumstances, and people start to see you that way. They treat you in the same manner and it sets you up for good things to happen. You can think of it as karma, God’s grace, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or whatever.

You get what you give.

So enjoy your holidays. Think of the joy and your legacy. Think about the positive interactions, even if they seem uncomfortable at first, and the benefit that both you and the people around you will see.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls” - Joseph Campbell

(Bio) Jim Turk has been interviewed for BBC Future, The Wall Street Journal, and on the news. He is active with the National MS Society, and is the subject of an episode of an Emmy award winning documentary series.

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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.

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