Two years with MS, wow. Two years ago today I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system. Two years seems like such a short amount of time, but honestly it feels like I’ve always had it. It’s such a large part of my identity now.
Since being diagnosed with MS, things have definitely changed mostly within me. When I was diagnosed, I was shell shocked and completely distraught. I felt as if my life had just been ripped out from under me and that things were going to be horrible. After a few months of wallowing in self pity, I realized that I needed to change my outlook. Yes, having a chronic illness sucks, but there are so many positive things in my life. I decided to truly start focusing on the good things in my life and work to kick MS in the butt.
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Two Year with MS: Things I’ve Learned
Over the last two years, I have grown a lot as my experience with this disease and life have pushed me. Below are the biggest things I have learned and my advice for others. If you want to know how I manage MS daily read here!
#1 Focus on the Positives
My life mantra is to stay positive. There are so many things that can bring you down: a hard work day, a fight with friends, or just a bad mood. I notice sometimes I will focus on one bad thing and then things will spiral out of control. When I notice myself doing that, I take a few deep breaths and I try to spin it to a positive.
Yesterday, I was stuck in 5 hours of traffic and instead of getting in a horrible mood, I reminded myself that I had a fun weekend and that I was going to get a good dinner once I got out of traffic. Focusing on the positives can be a really hard task, but it will make you so much happier. I have been able to see my MS in a positive light and to hold out hope for a better future. Changing your mindset can truly change your life.
#2 Expect the Unexpected
Life does not always go according to plan. That was made abundantly clear to me when the doctor told me that I had MS. At the time, I was in my mid-twenties, I felt healthy and pretty invincible. Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness will definitely throw that all under the bus. Life had thrown a wrench in my plans.
Now, I can have an MS attack at any moment, so I have to constantly prepare my mind for that possibility. When life throws something hard your way, you may have to roll with the punches. It’s important to learn how to be flexible so that you won’t be thrown by anything that comes your way.
#3 Lead with Gratitude
The diagnosis helped me realize that first and foremost I should practice gratitude. Gratitude for my current health, my loving family, my supportive friends, and all of the opportunities that I have been blessed with.
As the song goes: you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. Spend a few moments each day practicing gratitude. I know some people that write down things they are grateful for, but I just spend a few minutes each day really thinking about it. Focusing on the things you have really does help you feel so much better about life.
#4 Enjoy the Little Things
When I learned that I had MS, I immediately thought the worst. I thought that my life was over and I thought of all the things I would miss. This may have been dramatic, but it did give me a good kick in the butt.
There are so many things that I love about life. Hanging with my friends on the couch, eating a delicious ice cream cone, playing a game with my family, going on a hike, or reading a good book are all small things that make me so happy. I realized that these would be the things that I would truly miss if my life was over. So make sure to slow down and appreciate the smallest things in life. You will be so much happier when you do.
#5 Let Yourself Feel Emotions
This may seem to contradict my earlier point about focusing on the positive, but human beings experience a wide range of emotions and we shouldn’t shy away from them. In the first few months after my diagnosis, I pretended as if I was okay. I was going through the motions of daily life, but I wasn’t really feeling anything. I had numbed myself to the pain and sadness that I was truly feeling.
A couple months later, I had a moment to myself and I suddenly broke down. Tears were coming down uncontrollably and I was having a hard time catching my breath. I was finally letting myself feel. It was only through this breakdown and acknowledgement of my feelings that I was finally able to slowly improve. Humans have to process their emotions. So my advice is that if you’re going through something hard, allow yourself to truly sit with it and feel your emotions. It may be the only way to move forward.
#6 Lean on Support
I seriously would not have made it through these past two years without my loved ones. I have had to lean on them during really tough times. That first day, I called many friends and family members crying with the news (I’m a big sharer). Each one of them gave me the time I needed to vent and then offered their words of support.
For weeks, I was getting care packages from people in my life who knew the best ways to cheer me up. Although, that might be why I was eating Sour Patch Kids for three meals a day. Getting diagnosed, truly showed me that I had a wonderful community of people that would support me no matter what happened. You do not need to suffer alone. My support system got me through the darkest of times and I hope yours can do the same for you.
#7 Practice Self-Care
Self-care is super important for everyone. So many people push themselves to do things all the time, pushing their mind and body to their limits. That is not a healthy way to live and it can take years off of your life. I learned this lesson the hard way, because autoimmune diseases are often triggered by stress or lack of sleep.
When I had an MS attack a couple years ago, I was working from 6 am-9 pm and getting little to no sleep. It’s no wonder that my body fell apart. Now, I always try to get a full 8 hours of sleep and take a break when I’m getting stressed. Don’t wait until something happens to start focusing on your health. Make it a priority now.
I can’t believe I’ve experienced two years with MS. Two years ago was a very hard time for me, but I got through it and I think that in some ways MS changed me for the better. I hope that you all take my advice and focus on your mental and physical health. If you are struggling with a chronic illness or hardship, then you can definitely reach out to me.