5 Unexpected Ways MS Changed My Life For The Better
At the moment I’m finding that the most common thing people want to know from me is how Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has changed my life. Of all the things that have occurred the most surprising changes is how MS has changed my life in positive ways.
Following are 5 ways MS has changed me for the better. This list does not include all the positive changes in my life over the recent years, but these are by far the ones I am most grateful for.
Didn’t expect to see that one on here did you? I didn’t expect it either when I was first diagnosed. However, MS had a positive impact on my career and opened up a whole new pathway. I went from a corporate job which I enjoyed, but was very stressful and was a lifestyle I could not maintain long term.
After having being hospitalised for several months, I became inspired by the nurses caring for me and decided to change career paths and study nursing instead. This was the best decision of my life because not only did it open up the door to a career in health. It also taught me a lot about my own illness and how to better navigate the health care system. From my time as a nurse, I became more assertive about my own health care and learnt about self-advocacy. It also put me on the path to becoming a peer worker, a job that has been a highlight in my life.
Since having Multiple Sclerosis, I’ve learnt to become calmer. I discovered very early on that stress exacerbates my symptoms and let me tell you, before my diagnoses, anxiety was my most immediate response to stressful situations. I was a perfectionist who could fret over anything. Now I have learnt that it is just not worth it.
Of course, I still experience stress now and then. It’s not possible to eliminate it from life altogether, but I have learnt healthier ways to manage stress. I discovered that I can’t control external factors like other people or the world around me. However, I can control how I react and deal with stress. I can choose to live more mindfully, learn not to sweat the small stuff and learn to deal with stressors effectively instead of catastrophizing like I used to. Now if something is worrying me and it’s something I have no control over, I have learnt just to let it go
Learning mindfulness was a significant step to helping me better deal with stress. As I said before, I had to learn that some things I just had to let go of. Of course, that’s not so easy at first. You just can’t switch off your worries. This is where learning mindfulness helped me. After much resistance from my end to adopt a more mindful approach to life, I learnt that being more mindful was the key to moving forward.
In the beginning, I struggled a lot with the concept of mindfulness because it was taught to me as clearing your mind and not thinking about anything at all, but this is actually incorrect. Thoughts will enter your mind, and this is normal. Mindfulness was actually about letting those thoughts pass by, rather than fixating on what popped into my mind. At first, I found doing things mindfully such as colouring in, or yoga was the best approach for me. As by doing something I had something tangible I could focus on to help bring my mind back from wandering. Now that I’ve had more experience I’ve become better at it and can easily let thoughts go. If something is important, I file them away for a more appropriate time. It takes time, but I got there in the end and practice mindfulness all the time now.
Since working in community health and becoming involved in different social circles, I have come to meet some of the most amazing and sometimes inspiring people. People who I would never have crossed paths with in my previous life. Almost everyone I have worked with or met in the last few years has made a lasting impression in my life. I have also become more conscientious in my relationships. Being mindful not just to take, and making sure I support and help nurture the other person, in the same way, their companionship supports and nurtures me.
MS has made me more appreciative of the smallest things. And I mean really small things…like when the temperature outside is just right or finding a really comfy place to sit. For example, I have numbness in my hands, it’s always there, but on occasion, the numbness can completely disappear for about 30 minutes. Mainly after I do some yoga twists or I’ve been to see my physiotherapist. For those moments I feel so full of life. Now that might sound sad, but I don’t see it that way. I’m actually pretty lucky because I can get such a rush of joy and happiness from something so small. When you have chronic pain, even the briefest moments of relief can fill you with joy and optimism.
Of course having MS isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I still experience difficult times, and I’m still fearful about the future. The point I want to make is since my diagnosis I have developed some perks that make it easier for me to face these moments. That’s the beautiful thing about humans, we can learn, and we can adapt to even the most stressful situations. So I know that no matter what the future has in store for me, I will always find a way to manage, and I will stay on the look out for those perks along the way.