Skip to main content

Finish 2024 strong with our '6 Months to Overcoming MS' course

Get started

S5E15 MS and Creativity with Molly Meng

Listen to S5E15: MS and Creativity with Molly Meng

Welcome to Living Well with MS, where we are pleased to welcome Molly Meng as our guest! Molly has been following the Overcoming MS Program since 2020 and is an artist with a passion for storytelling. She chats to Geoff about how she adapted to the Overcoming MS Program, how she has found ways to manage stress and how her MS diagnosis has led her to build connections with others living with MS.

Watch this episode on our YouTube here. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways and Molly’s bio. Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips and news about living a full and happy life with MS. And if you’re new to Overcoming MS, visit our introductory page to find out more about how we support people with MS.

World MS Day

On World MS Day 2023 we joined with charities all over the world to share stories of connection using #MSConnections. Join the global campaign to make a difference to people with MS by finding our latest campaigns here.

Key Takeaways

Understanding how diet affects your health can help you make changes

“I was such a dairy hound. I was not only raised on dairy, but if you asked me one thing that I love having in my life ever it was dairy cream. Didn’t have to be ice cream, just cream, milk, butter. I loved dairy so much that I thought, ’how will I ever give it up?’ But the moment I read [the research on] the Overcoming MS website, I walked into my kitchen, and I just emptied out my fridge.”

Following the Overcoming MS diet can get you excited to try new flavours and food combinations

“[Following the Overcoming MS Program] has changed my excitement for food. I thought I was a foodie before, but now I wake up in the morning [and] I think what kind of flavours do I want to put together? Do I want salty and sweet? What can I use to get to that flavour? Can I use dates? Can I actually use a little tahini and dill? I just love it. I now cook and make things as a relaxing hobby.”

Mindful walking can be a form of stress-reduction

“When I’m on my dog walk, I don’t take a phone. I don’t have conversations. On the dog walk, I just find that I’m really mindful and I’m noticing the robins and the flowers. My whole body tends to lower its adrenaline and by the time I get home from that walk, I don’t find a lot of things to be stressed about.”

Transcript

Read the episode transcript here

Geoff Allix 

Welcome to the latest episode of the Living Well with MS Coffee Break. And joining me on this episode is Molly Meng from New Hampshire. So welcome Molly.

Molly Meng 

Thank you so much for having me, Geoff. It’s fun

Geoff Allix 

And to start off with, to get a bit of an introduction, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your life and where you live what you do and so on.

Molly Meng 

Sure, sure, okay. Well, I just recently, in this past year moved from Los Angeles, where I grew up to New Hampshire, where my husband grew up. So now we’re living in New Hampshire in a little town called Portsmouth, and I love it. I love being on the East Coast, it’s great. And nobody thought I’d be able to handle winter weather, but I’m loving it. I’m loving it. It’s so fantastic. We get to go to the beach every day, I take the dog to the beach every day. And then I come back and up in my studio, and usually work on either artwork that’s going out to somebody or something that just I’ve been thinking of, and then what else do I do during my day? I love it, I do a lot of dog walks with my dog, it’s a great opportunity to get outside. And we live near something called the Urban Forestry Center. And so we pop over there and do the trails. And so I get to spend a lot of time outdoors, which you’d think in California, I would have too, because the weather is so perfect, but here, it’s just so calm. It’s so calm, and it’s so deep in nature. And so few cars or fewer cars, that it’s I feel like I’m in a new world of nature. So it lends itself to a big part of my day, which is awesome.

Geoff Allix 

 I only spent a few days in LA, but they do like their cars.

Molly Meng 

They maybe don’t like them, but they’re in them. And on those freeways.

Geoff Allix 

I spent a lot of time in cars.

Molly Meng 

Yes, because in LA, everything is 45 minutes, it doesn’t matter if it’s five miles, it’s still 45 minutes. And here everything is 15. Anywhere I want to go, it’s 10 to 15 minutes. And so it’s been a it’s been a big change that I love. It’s probably been the best thing for my system, which is a big part of why we moved.

Geoff Allix 

And so could you tell us a bit about your MS diagnosis? And how you found out about OMS?

Molly Meng 

Yeah, definitely. So I think I had a really good if this can be good. I’ve really turned the whole MS diagnosis around for myself and have ended up saying it’s kind of the best thing that happened to me. But it started with severe pain in my arms, like really unbelievable pain. And family and friends all tried to figure out what it was, Oh, it must be tennis elbow must be overuse from your computer or your phone, texting. And so my husband was having shoulder surgery. And he was going to go to P. And he said, Why don’t you come to PT. Ah, before that even that pain, that severe pain in my arms grew into a total loss of strength in my left arm, like I couldn’t pick up a cup, I couldn’t grab things. I couldn’t hold a spoon or just total loss of strength. And I thought that was strange. But I also thought, Well, I do text and use the computer a lot. So I went to PT. And I told my PT at the time, how I was having this pain in my arms, and maybe he could give me exercises that would help me work it out. So he did he gave me a few exercises. And when I came back and I said not only is the pain worse in my left arm where it started. But now it’s so severe in my right arm. And I had this terrible, terrible squeeze around my chest, which I now know to be called the MS hug. But at the time, I just thought, why can’t I get a breath? Why can I move the way I used to I was quite active before. And I think at about the third session with my PT. Kevin, he said to me, Molly, I’m going to have you go to a neurologist. And I thought what in the world would I go to the neurologist for, he said I don’t think this is a physical therapy issue. I think it might have something to do with your nervous system. I was like, oh, that’s crazy. But okay. If you say so, I really liked him. And so I went and I had an MRI, and I went to this really really young doctor, and this young girl and she sat me down after the MRI and she said you have something called Multiple Sclerosis. I thought she was saying I have scoliosis. And I was like, “I don’t think I do. My back Doesn’t bother me.” I just I had no idea what MS was none. And so she gave me the diagnosis and talked about what was happening. She said, it’s extremely active. The the flaming in your in your brain is like, it’s extremely active right now. And you really should get this done and we should figure out the drugs you’re gonna go on and and she just filled me with all this information. All this sounded like terrible news. And I left her office and I went, I had a little studio in downtown Los Angeles, and I collect old books and dictionaries. And I looked up in like a 1920 medical dictionary, what multiple sclerosis was. And it essentially said, Good luck, Sally, you’re a dead man. Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do? And I couldn’t believe I was that really dropped my attitude. I just thought I’m dead. I’m not going to be able to walk in a couple weeks, I’m just going to turn into this, you know, total person I wasn’t ever in my life. So I came home. And I said to my husband, I almost said my husband at the time, but he’s still my husband, Ryan. I came home and said to him, so I was diagnosed with MS. And I just read about it. And it’s not good. It’s really, really bad. So I don’t want to talk about it, or think about it, or even discuss it for one week. And I said, just don’t, don’t Let’s just not talk about anything for one week. I just want to eat ice cream. And I want to and I didn’t know food had anything to do with it. No, at that point, no idea. And then one week later, I crawled out into real life again, and was like, Okay. And I ended up turning to my family and friends and saying, find me, everyone you’ve ever met or ever spoken to that has MS. And they did. And they turned around and said, oh, you should call this woman. And you should call this woman. And I have a friend that was diagnosed 10 years ago. And I have something my friend’s mom was diagnosed 12 years ago. And so I started making calls. And it was actually the first woman I spoke to who recommended OMS. And she said, I don’t follow it. But I think it’s a great resource. And I said, Oh, okay, I’ll take a look into it. And I did I got online and was like, What is this? And ah, thank goodness, because it was the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t want to do the drugs. And but I probably would have, I probably would have if I hadn’t found OMS I probably would have just said, All right, tell me what to do. And OMS gave me this template to be able to say, I don’t need someone else to tell me what to do. I mean, OMS is telling me what I can do. I guess it’s how I felt, you know, I just thought that’s that blew my mind that there was this path to take, because I did in the very beginning that the doctor said to me, you’re gonna have to go in and get steroids to calm the inflammation down. And I only ever heard about steroids. And I thought, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. And for about a week, I kept saying I don’t think I’m going to do that. And she finally said, I really highly suggest you go get these steroids. So I did. It was three days in a row of this infusion of 1000 milligrams a day or 1000. IUs a day. And that was a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And by that Monday, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t catch a breath and I couldn’t calm my heart rate. And I went in to the emergency room and said, I think I’m having a heart attack. And they really jumped to when you say I think I’m having a heart attack and it turned out to be the steroids caused. Oh gosh, Geoff. I can’t think of what what it’s called, but it caused something in my system, and acute pancreatitis, that’s what it caused. Okay. Yeah. And I said, What? And they were like that amount of steroids into your system, just your system couldn’t handle it. And that’s that really between the OMS template and that I was like, oh, yeah, I’m not gonna get on the drugs. My my body can’t handle the drugs.

Geoff Allix 

Just to say you can follow OMS and take disease modifying so If it’s not,

Molly Meng 

right, right, which is amazing to me, I think like to have that backup, right? So if I do ever have to do the DMTs, drug modifying therapy, I feel like oh, I have this really great start, you know, with OMS if you ever have to combine them. I feel lucky.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah. And I think there’s a point there don’t look at 1920s medical literature. For any advice. That is a good point. Is that appropriately gonna die really soon on anything?

Molly Meng 

You can look up like, yeah, you can look up I’ve got a runny nose, like Oh, forget it. That’s it. See ya Sally. Yes, it’s true.

Geoff Allix 

100 years ago, most things.

Molly Meng 

It was such the wrong thing to do. And yet, I thought, well, I have all this all this medical advice around me, I’ll just look it up. But no, wasn’t the right thing to do.

Geoff Allix 

So you’ve also interviewed people with MS about their experiences. So could you tell us a bit about that, and what you learned from those people?

Molly Meng 

Right. In the end, I think I ended up talking with 15, something like 15 to 17 different people, all different ages, men and women, all who had been diagnosed at some point anywhere from two years, previous to 22 years previously. And I just wanted to know, what are you doing? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? What’s what’s been a, an issue? What can I potentially expect? And it’s been fascinating, because, many of the people do DMTs. And the common phrase for why they don’t do well. OMS follow that kind of diet meditation exercise was that it was too much work. So I was a little bit nervous, because I’m not fantastic at applying and applying myself to things and sticking with things. And I thought, gosh, maybe this is going to be a lot. But for the two, I’d say there were two people I spoke to out of all those people that did change their diet and live by diet. They were big proponents of it and said, I’ve found that if I stick with this diet, and I’ve gone off it and so I’ve had the downfalls of it. But I’ve found that if I stick with this diet, everything stays copacetic. Everything stays on on a certain level. You know, it’s interesting. People didn’t tend to bring up stress as a big issue. But I’ve found for me that that’s been my biggest issue. If I’m stressed, almost immediately, I feel it in the same places it began.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, I’m the same. I can I can sense stress. I can physically feel like I’m getting stress.

Molly Meng 

Right. Me too, or which I never noticed before in my life. I’m just shocked. And so I in that sense, I think it’s a good. You know, I also kind of say, Thanks, MS. Because it’s like, I think I was stressed for a lot of things. And I never realized it. And now you know, I can feel it. I’m Oh, no, no, it’s coming. It’s coming. I can feel it. So yeah, so it was interesting. There’s one guy I spoke to who’s actually on the board here at Brigham Hospital. Yeah, at the hospital here in Boston. And he and he could tell me how they were working on these different MS drugs going forward. And that was a really interesting conversation. He too, was like, I can’t follow a diet because he said, I love cheeseburgers. And I was like, cool. I get it, man. Sure. I was such a dairy hound Geoff like dairy. I was not only raised on dairy, but dairy. If you asked me one thing that I love having in my life ever it was dairy cream. Didn’t have to be ice cream, like just cream, milk, butter. I loved dairy so much so much that I thought how will I they ever give it up? But the moment I read the OMS website, I walked into my kitchen and it’s like I just emptied out my fridge.

Geoff Allix 

You just get used to things as well because I don’t fancy I was the same I had a lot of dairy now I don’t want it at all. The idea doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Molly Meng 

Same thing, not at all. And in fact, my family eats a lot of dairy and and when I went home this past summer I tried a little bit of I tried to little bite of cheese and I tried a little bit of butter. I thought, is this gonna get me? Am I going to love it? No, no, I don’t miss it at all. It’s weird. Weird, fantastic, but weird.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, I think you do you get accustomed to what you’re used to because they’ve done in this country, they’ve started to reduce sugar in drinks and, and a lot of things. But over time people just get used to it. And they said if you if you taste like soda from when you were a kid, and you know that you thought it’s the same, but it isn’t. They’ve just changed it slowly over time. And they said then it tastes amazingly sweet or things that are amazingly salty. Yes, they’ve reduced the salt and reduce the sugar for health reasons, because they did it gradually. No one really noticed. And then you go back to try something from the 1980s. Wow.

Molly Meng 

Exactly. Yeah. I just wanted to finish that thought about talking to people who had MS. What it ended up doing was also giving me a lot of confidence, feeling it. I mean, I’m comfortable talking to people anyway. But it gave me a lot of confidence to kind of when I met someone, be the point person. So like, there was a young girl I met at the grocery store, who actually was checking out my groceries and she said, “Oh, you’re getting such interesting items. Like I’ve never tasted these hemp seeds,”or, “what’s nutritional yeast for?” and all these things. And I was talking to her and I said, Well, I got it. I’m really open about it. I’m really comfortable saying well, I have MS. Or I was diagnosed with MS. I prefer to say, and she said, I was too. I was too when I was 22 years old. And so she lived she still lives with her family. And she’s very young in her 20s and her family kind of poo pooed the whole diagnosis. Of course, you can eat that cream cheese, of course you can have that milk in your cereal, of course you can. And so she struggles with it a lot. And so when I lived in California, and I’d see her almost every week, I ended up getting her phone number and calling her and taking her out to coffee and saying, “Hey, listen, I’m just gonna give you a couple of recipes. So really simple. And just have your grandma try this or you bake it for your grandma and see” you know, and that felt really good. And since those days, I’ve probably had half a dozen people call me and say, “hey, my wife was diagnosed, my girlfriend’s sister was diagnosed, my my daughter’s friend, can they talk to you? Can they call you? Absolutely, I love it. I love talking about it. I hope, my excitement for the food change. I hope that comes across, I hope that comes across because and makes a difference for them. Because I just and I love being able to say there’s this entire website, it’s so deep, because the OMS website has so many layers, like just spend a whole day going into it. There’s an exercise page, there’s a meditation page, you know, there’s so much there. So, I kind of hope that what I learned from those people and what I learned from the website, I’m able to pass on to others and hopefully help other people or at least give some direction, which is what I needed at the time.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, and it’s more work to cook but it’s cooking proper food it’s not just what the ingredients are. It’s also the fact that we’re trying to make proper whole food and I think we’ve got into the certainly in the states, in the UK less so in some countries, but we we just expect to be able to buy something from the supermarket which we then either put in a microwave or put in the oven and then take it out and then eat it without doing any cooking at all. It’s zero cook and it’s just like but that’s not really proper food is it? You look at the sell by date is when it’s like okay, this thing keeps for three weeks.

Molly Meng 

What is in that right? It has changed my it’s changed my excitement for food. Like I thought I was a foodie before, and I did love food but now I wake up in the morning I think what kind of flavors do I want to put together? Like, do I want to salty and sweet? Or as my brother calls it spicy, sweet and spicy. And you know what, and what can I use to get to that flavor? That’s what I think is also fascinating. Can I use dates can I actually use a little tahini and dill and that’ll do it or I just I love it. I now cook and make things as a relaxing concept which I can’t believe I’ve turned into that person.

Geoff Allix 

I believe when you moved to you mentioned you moved from LA to the East Coast, and that when you move you found an old grocery list. So how have you adapted that to the diet pillar.

Molly Meng 

Oh my gosh. So when I, when we moved, we didn’t have the wherewithal to pare down too much. So we just brought everything. And I was flipping through a notebook and outfalls this little piece of paper. And on my very last grocery list, before I was diagnosed, on it was milk, cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and half and half. That was all it was on. It was like, oh, Molly.

Geoff Allix 

Enough is that’s milk basically to write

Molly Meng 

Half and a half is cream and milk. So it’s half cream, half milk, just the thickest thing you can get. And I just cracked me up because of course now my grocery list. Well, now I don’t actually even usually make a grocery list because I’m aware of what I’m I go right to the green section, I go right to the veggie section. And I’d say the only prepackaged foods I get now. Well, I do buy oat milk. When I don’t have all the energy to make my own milk. I’ll buy oat milk, or macadamia milk. And and then, you know, I might buy spices and there’s one cracker that I can’t think of. Isn’t that awful? I can’t think of the name of it flickers or something. This It’s nothing. It’s just yeast and water and rye. And I’m like, okay. So yeah, so I it’s interesting, because not you won’t find any of those things in my house now. You won’t find any dairy, there’s no butter, I don’t ever have anything, quote on hand. It’s from my old diet, ever. And I find people are willing people that come over are willing to roll with what’s in my fridge. But it worked better if I don’t actually say anything about it, if I just put it out. So if I put out black bean brownies, and I don’t mention what they’re made of people eat them up like crazy. Or if I put out beet balls, and they eat one and what this is so interesting, you know, great. I’ll tell you that it’s raw beets later, you know? Because I definitely found when I put something down, let’s say cheese. For instance, when I make cheese, and I put down cheese and people are eating going, “What kind of cheese is this?” If you call it cheese, people expect kind of like what you were saying we sort of expect that automatic thing like we can throw something in the microwave and it’s just made. And that’s the same thing when you call so I’ve kind of come to renaming things. Oh, try to spread. Try this, you know, different things instead of calling them cheese, or do you want milk?  It’s like milk.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, and you can do something like we’ve made the Sonya. Quite. And so using you mentioned nutritional yeast and so that nutritional yeast and corn flour or flour goes in there and oat milk. And it’s yeah, it’s it tastes perfectly good. I mean, it’s not. It’s not cheese. It’s not dairy. But it’s not. It’s not the main I wouldn’t eat it as soup. I think it’s, it goes in between a couple of layers of lasagne.

Molly Meng 

Yeah, we use so much nutritional yeast. It’s consistent. And we used it before.

Geoff Allix 

I had no idea what it was before. No awareness of it at all. I would not have known what it was. And

Molly Meng 

that’s the oath. So I’ll tell you I grew up with two brothers that I mean, I grew up with a big family, but two of my brothers, one brothers totally raw. And I think he eats one meal a day, he believes we’ll eventually evolve to not eating at all. I’m not sure how that’s going to work. But that’s what but he’s under that impression. So he eats totally raw, he eats one meal a day and he’d never eat after 4pm And then I have another brother who was just really into health food. And so there were a lot of ingredients that were in our house that I otherwise I might never have heard of, you know, so there was a lot of turmeric, there was a lot of fresh ginger. There’s a lot of nutritional yeast. So I was lucky to have a little push background of that stuff. And when I started making food, straight off the OMS recipe page or out of Ashley Madden’s cookbook, everything I brought home my brothers are like yes Molly. Yes. This is exactly how we want to eat Yeah, so that part’s really fun.

Geoff Allix 

I’ve spoken to a lot of people if you’re if your brothers eating one meal a day of raw food, that’s, I mean, that’d be fun. I don’t think I could possibly do it.

Molly Meng 

I don’t either.

Geoff Allix 

It’s just, yeah. And it’s fitting in with family and all these things. There’s a lot of evidence that actually that daily, effectively daily fasting, of having a really short window of eating is really good for you.

Molly Meng 

Interesting what he is in better shape than any one of us, you know, really, really, really, and he never has stomach issues. And he never has, you know, aches and pains in the same way that, you know, we might wake up and be like, Oh, my fingers feel really fat or something. And he doesn’t have any of that he doesn’t have any pain. And but talk about commitment, right? I mean, that’s a super commitment and time, raw food. If you’re eating only raw food, especially. It’s all day chopping. It’s all day peeling. It’s I mean, my brother’s in the kitchen for hours and hours and hours doing that. And that is a lot of commitment. And that is, yeah, it’s just a lot of commitment. But he’s, the great thing is he loves flavors. And so he in his mind, he might taste a something might taste something that you’re having on your plate. And then it’ll be like, How can I figure out that flavor? He’s a master at that, which we love, sauces, dips, all that he’s great.

Geoff Allix 

You mentioned about stress. So I believe used to be a teacher, which is up there with most stressful jobs, I believe. Yes. And also, you’ve moved from one side of the states to the other side of the states, which is pretty stressful. So how do you deal with stress?

Molly Meng 

Yeah, so, um, I have found the, that word we all tossed around so much, being mindful, is actually a real thing that you have to apply. And that’s what I tried to do. Moving out of Los Angeles was the biggest stress reliever that we could have come up with. And so not having to fight traffic or, you know, deal with an overcrowded city or have to get from one place to another and have it just take forever. All of that, once removed was such a relief. So I tried to start every day, I wake up, and I try to in my head, I’m like, thankful I look out the window. I’m so thankful I can see those trees, I’m so thankful I can still pet my dog. I’m so thankful I can and not still like something horrible is coming. But just as a human living in the world, I just sort of I don’t think about the MS part of it at all. Just acknowledge Wow, I’m so lucky. I’m waking up in this bed. So I do a bit of that in the morning. Not a ton, and not every day. But if I’m good about it, I do. And then I’m on my dog walk I don’t take a phone. I don’t have conversations I don’t I try not to distract when I’m doing one thing because I’m a very distracted person. So when I’m in my studio, and I’m I’m doing stuff, I can easily get distracted by something else. But on the dog walk, I just find that I’m really really mindful. And I’m noticing the robins and I’m noticing the flowers if there are any still at this level winter, or I’m noticing the snow and those things just my whole body just tends to lower its adrenaline. And by the time I get home from that walk. I don’t find a lot of things to be stressed. I just don’t get stressed in the same way that I used to. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because as we were kind of covering earlier, when I start to get stressed, I feel it. It’s immediate in my in my arms and my chest and my my body again. And that feeling is such a scary overwhelming feeling. That not having that is is key. Like I’m just like if you want to make it through every day, happily and getting things done, you just don’t need stress. I’ve come to learn that stress doesn’t push me forward. It doesn’t help me and I think I used to believe that stress was a motivator. and it’s just not that’s just not a motivator my body can handle anymore. So yeah, so I find a lot of ways to relax. Yeah.

Geoff Allix 

It’s the fight or flight thing was when we had to survive lions.

Molly Meng 

Really good point. Yeah. It’s a really good point. Exactly right. Make your Lions little all my lions can be turned into kitties as far as I’m concerned. Yeah. Yeah, so I just don’t I just don’t have the same amount of stress, or I just don’t maybe allow it in quite the same way. So that’s helpful.

Geoff Allix 

And so change subjects a little bit. What is your You Are Not Alone In This series?

Molly Meng 

Oh, right. So I started this. I started maybe in 27 to 2018, somewhere in there. I just made one piece, I make artwork, I type a lot on an old typewriter. And then I stitch layers of ephemera together, and do collages. And so I started making these little boxes, these little box artworks, and they have a typed piece on the front. I was listening to a song, and they sing a line that says “you are not alone in this.” And the way they sang it. I just thought, oh, man, that’s really, it just hit me. And so I kind of started it, I sort of started it made it for myself. It’s like, oh, okay, I just need a message, I’m really, I have a lot of all over my studio, I have a lot of quotes, a lot of things reminded me I have quotes tattooed on my body, I have a lot of things like, okay, it’s gonna be okay. And so, I put up on Instagram, that you are not alone in this piece. And immediately, people were like, I need that I need that piece of artwork. And so I started making more and more of them. And I decided, You know what, I’m going to make 100 of these. And they’re made with this collage. And most of them, I think there’s only maybe 10 of them that don’t, but most of them have a stamp and a vintage stamp somewhere on them. And so because most people buy them for someone else to say like, I know you’re going through something, but I want you to know, you’re not alone in this. And I think having that daily reminder, almost like a stone, like an anchor right in front of you helps. And so I’ve had, I think I’ve probably, there’s probably 50 or so of them out there now. And there will eventually be 100. But they’re all over the world. People have bought them and or I’ve sent them or people have sent them to their friends all over the world. And even after people have have given them as gifts or bought them for themselves, I hear from them saying, You know what, I keep it on my shelf. And I look at this and every time I look up at that little type note you are not alone in this just gives me a sense of relief. Like I feel it, I feel it, I feel that there’s someone out there thinking of me, or knowing that I could call someone I just it’s such a simple simple phrase. And I know it’s really overused a lot, you know, people tend to throw it around. But I feel when I with each piece I make, I’m infusing that energy and I think the people that get into it and the people that send it to other people. It’s it’s so infused, this little square box is so infused with so much energy, that the message is really meaningful. It gets it’s held and it’s passed on and yeah, so that

Geoff Allix 

The fact is given as a gift means someone’s telling you that they’re with you. I don’t know this, it’s yeah, you’re not reading you’re actually receiving it and like,

Molly Meng 

Even more than a card, you know, which is also fantastic. But it’s this physical piece, this physical box that has all this paper and all these layers in this stitching. Yeah, it really. And I I have one sitting on my desk and I look at it and I think that’s right. I know I’m not alone in this, which is something it is kind of a feeling I had when I got the diagnosis. First and foremost, that sentence out of her mouth. This is what you have this is this is what and this is how bad it’s gonna get and this is where it’s gonna go and this is what it’s going to do and I thought, Oh, this just can’t be I can’t be the only one feeling this I can’t. So it kind of goes hand in hand with that why I went and sought out those half a dozen people, as I just thought, no, no, we’re not the only one. And why I think these Circles are so great.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah. And I think people should reach out to the community because I certainly when I was first diagnosed, I was very much on my own, essentially, I live in a fairly rural place. And I didn’t know anyone else. And even, you know, it was before the OMS circles have started. And eventually, I met one person who was living at the other side of my county, and there was like, Okay, there’s someone else. And then, and then it started to grow. And then you start to it. Before circles, there was still like Groups, and we started to get there was like a sort of message board and it, but and then and now, there’s lots of people I know. So it’s, it’s so much easier, because there’s people, okay, I can speak to people who are going through the same thing as me who are doing the same thing as me. But yeah, I would definitely. So I encourage people to get out. Even if it’s virtually if it’s online, or whatever, just communicate with people. Alone. Yeah,

Molly Meng 

I think so too. And I think that’s where the, I don’t think you have to get together and talk about necessarily what your body issues are, right? You don’t have to necessarily talk about like, “oh, this is happening to me, or that.” it doesn’t have to be all about that it can be about, like I know, in the Massachusetts circle that I’m now part of, at Christmas time, they said, here’s some great OMS cookie recipes, right? And you’re like, oh, this exists? Cookies? In this world? I can do that. Because I think at the beginning, you think this strict diet, there’s no way I’m never gonna be able to do this. And then you find out oh, no, this is actually fun. This is actually a cool way to approach this. And I think that’s great. I do too. I would say, I recommend talking to as many people as possible, and putting it out there.

Geoff Allix 

And did you put it out there with your social media followings on this Instagram and stuff? Did you go publicly?

Molly Meng 

Yeah. So I, what I did do the most of was I started doing little reels and short videos and talks about the way I eat now. And putting out recipes and showing what like what my what my shopping day is. So I’d go to the farmers market. And I’d come back with all this and then show what am I going to do with these carrots. So that was how I started it. Kind of quietly, wanted to approach it as a new food concept, you know that you can eat this way. And then I ended up doing. I used to do a little live show every Tuesday. And at the end, when I finished one of the live shows. I did it for about a year. And at the end of it I said I want everyone to kind of think about something that you think is maybe the worst thing that happened to you this past year, just the worst thing that happened, and how you could potentially possibly look at it from a different angle. And think of it as acctually the best thing that happened to me. Turns the worst thing was the best thing that happened to me. And I said, you know, the recording and all the people that were watching, for me, it was being diagnosed with MS. I thought it was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me. And it’s turned out to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. So in that sense, yes. And I think after this conversation and having had more people contact me, I’m more open about it. Now, you know, and will continue to be more and more open about it. Not that I was trying to hide it in any way, shape, or form. I just thought it doesn’t have anything to do with other people. But in fact, people that follow me on social media are like, “Oh, no way. I didn’t know that. That’s fascinating. I have this” or I you know, so I think it will only get larger for me. I think my talking about it and being out there with it will only become a bigger part of what I do. For sure.

Geoff Allix 

So you mentioned about being an artist. And I believe that you’ve prepared a demonstration for us today.

Molly Meng 

Yeah, how am I going to do that with you? Let’s see. Um, well, you know what, we’ll, we’ll talk about it really, in basic forms. So, with collage and a lot of people do collage, which I think is awesome nowadays, especially, and everybody has kind of a different attempt at collage. I think prompts are a really great way to start because you collage like with anybody. You start with a blank page, and you’re like, “What in the world am I going to put on there? I don’t have any thoughts in my head. I don’t have any thing that I’m I want to put down on the page.” So I just wanted to introduce a little  quick prompt, which is the idea that you focus on one color. And in that focus, you create a collage that you didn’t know was there before, because you’re just focused on one color. And I often say pick a color that you love, or more interesting. Pick a color that you can’t stand that you think you just hate, and work from that angle. And then the other part of that, because I’ve had people say, You know what, when they finish, “I really hate the color green. So that’s what I did my collage in: the color green. And I love it turns out, I love it.” So it’s not that I’m trying to get you to love a color you don’t already like. But I think it’s interesting when we force ourselves to use a color that we say we don’t like. Kind of maybe like food, like, oh, I don’t like carrots. And then you’re like, but try my carrot cake which I made with blah, blah, blah. I do like carrot cake

Geoff Allix 

That’s one brussel sprouts for me.

Molly Meng 

You don’t like Brussels sprouts? Oh, still you don’t like Brussels sprouts.

Geoff Allix 

The problem I have. So what you’re doing is that you can spend a lot of time getting brussels sprouts peeling all the leaves of the outside cutting costs into them, cooking them and then any for a precise amount of time and then blanch them in cold water. And then adding in loads of other stuff that you actually like the flavor of already anyway, like chestnuts and things like this. And then you can kind of eventually after a huge amount of effort for me can make them just about passible. I spent hours doing that. My wife loves them. And I think it’s different. It’s just different taste, isn’t it? Okay, the nice bits of the bits that I added in. So if I just removed the sprouts from that, that’s still the nice bits left and they’d be nice and their own. And so they finally found this actually difference is a physical difference. Probably people who don’t like sprouts, that they can taste this different flavor sensations and something that they said there’s there might be actually a reason.

Molly Meng 

Oh, we just can create a reason. But isn’t that funny and brussel sprouts? No, I don’t know how I felt growing up. But brussel sprouts are one of my absolute favorite favorite foods now. I just think they’re so incredible. And if I could have an all the time, I would.

Geoff Allix 

Yeah, no five minutes. I’m cabbage, no problem. Like other sort of things from the cabbage family I’m okay with.

Molly Meng 

I really think about cabbage. Isn’t that funny. Um, so, this is really simple. And I just chose the color black generally. But I when I talk about people doing these color prompts to choose a color, and then you take one contrasting or complementary color, it doesn’t matter, and you throw it in the piece. So if you were doing an all green piece, and then you threw in a little mustard yellow somewhere, it just gives you a collage a little pop.

Geoff Allix 

So this is people who are just listening, listening and not because this is going out and video and just podcast audio. So you literally just it’s basically a postcard size card. And then you’ve just cut the shapes using scissors.

Molly Meng 

And I didn’t even use scissors, I only ripped. So here’s your three things. If you’re thinking about doing like, if you’re just listening to this, and you’re like, you know, while I listen to this, I want to also be doing something with my hands and gluing paper. So it’s a glue stick, a little pile of scraps, it could be newspapers, or the colored coupons from the newspaper or it could be a magazine nearby that you’re no longer using. And just focus on one color, think about one color so you pick pink. And so you want to stretch the boundaries of pink and pull anything that looks a little bit pink in whatever paper using. I don’t even use scissors because it goes quicker. If you don’t use scissors, you can rip everything. And ripping is actually an entire collage concept on its own. Just ripping. I have a friend that only does ripped collages. So you can rip everything. Look, you check both sides your papers see which is the better side of your paper that you possibly want to glue down. I throw in my glue stick and stick with one color. And I find instead of using a big sheet of paper, like if you might be faced with an 8×10 sheet of paper and you’re like oh it’s enormous. Take a pencil and draw a little square on the inside. If you don’t have like a little postcard size paper, just to small it down for yourself, and, and give yourself not too much trauma over it and pick a color green, blue, and then throw in a contrasting color. And you can you can put anything together. It doesn’t matter. That’s the fun thing about collage. There are no rules, it doesn’t matter. And whatever, you feel good, and it’s done when you think it’s done.

Geoff Allix 

And so you don’t might not think of yourself as an artist, but you effectively can create art.

Molly Meng 

Absolutely, absolutely. I think we’re, I think, yeah, I’m hoping we’re past the stage that some people think they’re an artist and some people don’t. Because I think everybody can create something that they end up loving. And you can end up putting it on your wall, throwing it in a frame, and feel like oh, my gosh, I created that piece of art. You know, the average Joe doesn’t know the difference between an Artist with a capital A. And, yeah, I’m an artist. Because it, it’s all art, when it’s when it’s finished, and it’s up and it’s taped up to the wall or stuck in a frame. It is art period. It’s just, it’s whatever you want it to be. So I think it’s the freeing part. And this is what I teach, because I teach a lot of workshops, virtually and in person. It there are no rules. And that’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth is that there are no rules. There’s no right or wrong. If you asked me, Hey, Molly, can I do…? I’m gonna say yes, automatically. Of course you can. Of course that makes sense. Can I glue the backside to this and make this pop out? Of course you can. Absolutely, if that’s what you want to do. That’s what you do. So I’m a big proponent of there is no such thing as rules. And art must be this way. It’s all it’s all a creative outlet, which is helpful to get through the day.

Geoff Allix 

And as a final point, there’s something we have a tradition of asking people on coffee break. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you were not newly diagnosed with MS?

Molly Meng 

Don’t read 1920 Medical Dictionaries? Right? That would be the first and foremost. Yeah. Take your time. Don’t feel you have to have all the answers the night you get home from diagnosis. Take your time. Look at all the outlets, I think I felt a little frantic, that I had done so much damage to myself to get to this point. I really took it on. I caused this and I did this to myself kind of thing. And if if I if I could go back, that’s one statement, I think I would take away and be like, hey, things happen. And there’s a lot you know, there’s a lot of reasons this happened. And it didn’t happen to you. As it turns out, it happened for you, which are all really seemingly Pollyanna attitudes. If you can’t do it for yourself, find a Pollyanna around you and allow them to be like, “Hey, this is doable.” This is you can live with this and you can live positively with this. And it’s not the end of your life. I think that’s the big, big thing. And I caught on to that pretty quick. But that first day I don’t know. I don’t know, maybe I couldn’t have heard it that first day. You know, if somebody had been like, Dude, it’s okay. But that’s, that’s, that’s who I would like to be for someone else. You know, it’s be that really like, Hey, this is doable. This is you know, this is manageable. So, yeah, I think that’d be the first thing I’d say is just the diagnosis. This is manageable. Everything’s manageable. This, this is manageable too.

Geoff Allix 

Okay. And with that, I’d like to thank you very much for joining us Molly Meng.

Molly Meng 

Thanks, Geoff. Thanks. It was really fun talking to you. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Follow us:

Don’t miss out:

Subscribe to this podcast and never miss an episode. Listen to our archive of Living Well with MS here. If you like Living Well with MS, please leave a 5-star review.

Feel free to share your comments and suggestions for future guests and episode topics by emailing [email protected].

Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips and news about living a full and happy life with MS.

If you enjoy this podcast and want to support the ongoing work of Overcoming MS, you can make a donation here.

Bio:

Molly’s personal life and MS diagnosis

Molly Meng is a Los Angeles, California native who recently moved with her husband to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was diagnosed with MS in August 2020 and started following the Overcoming MS program that same month. The move from CA to NH was largely influenced by this diagnosis, in an effort to slow down and live deeper in nature.

Molly’s career as an artist

Molly is an artist, working with ephemera, vintage photos and textiles, who also teaches creative workshops throughout the year. She loves being on stage performing stand-up comedy, and storytelling. Molly finds enjoyment and ease in seeking out new people and speaking with strangers.  Her motto that “strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet” has led her to meet a wide variety of others who are living well with MS.