This title almost seems as though it’s setting us up for failure, doesn’t it?
It creates the pretense that we must achieve victory on a constant basis, and if for some reason we fall short — well, all goes to hell in a handbasket. Discussing ways to win the daily battle means there must be an expectation that we succeed, right? Wrong!
There lies our first problem. Those of us with multiple sclerosis (MS) are really good at setting expectations for ourselves, and even more so, setting them outrageously high.
What happens when I do that? I fail miserably, and by 8 p.m., I end up on the shower floor while I put the cherry on top of my “suck at life” sundae.
I think many of us tend to get caught up in the comparison of the “old me”: “I used to be able to do this,” or “I wish I still moved like that.” These inner monologues seem to be on repeat for many of us.
How do we break this cycle? Acceptance. It’s a loaded word, yes, but it’s key for finding peace and a sliver of normalcy in our new normal.
But how, exactly, can we accept something we dislike? How do we accept something that reminds us daily of how much we are struggling?
When I started looking at the glass as half full, acceptance began to get closer and closer. Can we change our condition? No, of course not. But can we change how we treat it and cope with it? You bet your bottom dollar we can!
I realized that when I changed my perception on my disability and chronic illness, I was able to change my reality. I can honestly say that I am healthier now than I was prior to my diagnosis. I know how to advocate for my health and speak up. I am 10 times more conscientious about who I approve to join my medical team, whereas when I was “healthy,” I didn’t really care as much.
Don’t get me wrong — I still have moments where I curse the words “multiple sclerosis.” I think we all get to have a pass on that from time to time. I’ve heard that happiness is a choice, and I fully back this statement. Take it from someone who also struggled with clinical depression for years. It is so easy to get stuck down the rabbit hole of doom.
So, the question remains: How do you accept a chronic illness and make it work? I just do! Yes, it’s that simple. I can’t change it. It’s not going anywhere, and most importantly, I can either be happy in it or miserable.
Adaptation is key in making this whole “acceptance” thing work. I am lucky to have been trained to adapt to change well. I know that my professional background in the performing arts caused me to succeed at this. From going on stage and performing an entire show when I’d just learned the lines nine hours prior to camping out on the concrete for two days for a Broadway cattle-call audition, I’ve learned how to make it work!
Will I ever be able to hold the title of strongest dancer in an advanced tap class again? Probably not, but that was just a different time. Just like when I used to be able to stay up until 3 a.m. in college. I sure as heck can’t do that anymore. It would murder my body and take me a week to recover. Instead, I’ve found new things I can take on to achieve.
So how do you change your perception? If we choose to see the bad, that is all we will see. Ask yourself what qualities about your life now have taught you something beneficial. In what ways can you see yourself growing as a person while living with a chronic illness? Have you been able to set more realistic and healthy boundaries for yourself when it comes to friendships and relationship expectations? I know I can say “yes” to most of these questions, and I hope you can as well!
My Perspective articles discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. My Perspective articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.