It has been almost three years since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and what a journey it has been!
The first six months after diagnosis were incredibly tough as I struggled with fearful thoughts about the future. I worried that my children (who were then only 1 and 3 years old) would not have the mum that they deserved, that they would get made fun of for having a mum that was different and that I would be a burden on my family. I suffered panic attacks and completely lost my sense of worth. I felt helpless, hopeless and alone.
Finding Overcoming MS
I discovered the Overcoming MS program online about 5 months after I was diagnosed, and for the first time I felt a sense of hope and empowerment. In Step 4: Meditate and Use the Mind-Body Connection, author George Jelinek speaks about hope:
‘There are always those who do better... than the statistics... We can always have real hope that we will have a similar course... The researchers concluded that hope is a potent protective resource for PwMS’.
I began to follow the OMS program and after a few months I felt ‘normal’ again. Unfortunately, not long after that my marriage broke down and I went through a period of extreme stress. Ironically though, it was this terrible time that made me realise that stress and negative emotions are some of the worst things to flare MS. I knew that I needed to find a way to be at peace with my life, exactly as it was in that moment.
So I began meditating daily, I began journaling. I attended an OMS Retreat and committed to following the program diligently. I found exercise that I enjoy and I do that several times a week. I make sure I find time to be social and to ask for help when I need it. When it all gets too much and I feel like I have nothing left to give then I let myself rest and recover and I don’t feel guilty about it.
My greatest fear at diagnosis was that my kids wouldn’t get the mother that they deserved. There are times, especially being a single mum, that I can’t run around and play with them when they want me to, or when I have to ask them to help me around the house. But I now try to embrace every reality in my life in a positive way. I do what I can when I can.
I really enjoy taking my kids camping and at first I told myself that I couldn’t do it on my own, but I bit the bullet and did it and it was amazing. They love helping me to pack the car and when we get to the campground my son helps me to set up the tent and we all work together as a team to get the beds set up inside.
I get out and go for a walk on weekends and my kids ride along on their bikes with me.
I teach them about how the body works and about my disease and we talk about why I follow the OMS diet and that helps them to understand the importance of making good food choices.
They see me meditate and they join in. When I am having a hard day they are learning compassion and empathy.
There are actually so many blessings that have come to my children from my diagnosis and I no longer feel guilty about it or feel like it makes me less of a mum.
If there is one piece of advice I would give to someone newly diagnosed with MS it is to make the decision to live your best life.
Find other people who have MS and meet up with them. It is a great way to break out of that feeling of loneliness and isolation that can come with a diagnosis.
Find and follow people online who have MS and who are living their best life (there are plenty of them, turns out we MS’ers are pretty awesome and inspiring!) Read self-help books and teach yourself how to change your thoughts from those that bring you down to those that lift you up.
If you haven’t already, read Overcoming MS and begin to follow the OMS program. Get to an OMS Retreat if you can, they are truly life-changing. Meditate every single day (I started setting my alarm for half an hour earlier to make time to meditate and it’s actually a really beautiful way to start the day). Find something you love: whether it be creative writing, yoga, cooking, reading, going for a walk, sitting in nature and make the time in your week to do those things.
Make it your intention every day to be at peace and handle every situation that presents itself with that intention in mind. Stress truly is the enemy with this disease and for me, every time I feel myself heading towards stress I ask the question ‘is this worth relapsing for?’ The answer is always no.
MS can certainly feel like a scary diagnosis and there is a natural period of grieving to be expected after you receive the news. However, there is so much life to be lived and with or without a diagnosis, nobody’s future is guaranteed to be without hiccup. So I do my best everyday to live THIS day and whatever it presents to me, with a grateful heart and a whole lot of hope.