Recently when a sociology student interviewed me, one question was, "If I were diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis (MS) what advice would you give me?"
That question provided me with many hours of thought, as I tried to relive those years of confusion and despair to pass on anything I had learned that may be of use to others. I hesitate to give advice, for we each must find our own way. But because I remember well what a desperately lonely way it can be, 50 years after the fact, I eagerly will share the philosophy that served me well and which I would recommend highly.
One time, when a "bout" had abated and it seemed as if I were perfectly all right again, someone unwittingly made the remark, "You know, I really think you have it licked." I always had been self-sufficient, and her remark spurred me to prove she was right, that I was all right again. Therefore, I attempted to tackle jobs I should not have attempted. This unwise action produced disastrous results. I pushed myself, got overly tired, and brought on another attack. It was very difficult for me to admit that in a contest with MS the outcome was predetermined - the MS always wins, and the answer is in the hands of the MS researchers. I finally found that instead of beating it, I should try to go along with it, and in that way I would have more success. When a cure is found, that researcher will be happy to publicize it, and patients will be with the first to know. However, pride is difficult to handle, and I did not want to listen at first, and I did not want to give in.
Each of us is eager to begin a plan of action when we are about to find our way back, but we do not know where to begin. I turned to the higher wisdom of the Bible and gradually developed a strong faith. Taking these steps led to stability:
* I aligned myself with the ultimate in healing forces and this gave me comfort.
* Also, I made a real effort to dwell only on the positive. A sense of peace developed from following the advice in scriptural readings, listening to good beautiful music, being with loved ones and good friends, and reading inspiring articles.
* I used to visualize that when a wave receded, it pulled all negative thoughts from me, and later a new wave brought serenity. These thoughts contributed to my developing "being."
* I found that being with someone who understands your predicament helps.
* I found that reading Romans V. Ill gave me strength and following the advice in the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer is a "must" (i.e., God, give us the courage to change the things that can be changed, the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.). It is wise to accept this advice in any situation.
* For goodness sake, I tried to avoid doing what we all tend to do- live the rest of our lives tomorrow. Have you ever noticed that when faced with a severe health problem your mind usually thinks of the worst scenario and catapults you far into the future? You never think about the next morning! And our future is doled out in days. Frequent rests of 10, 5, or even 2 minutes reduces tension, and one's durability is increased. Getting tired is fine, but becoming overtired causes damage.
* Humor is of paramount importance. Have you ever noticed how your spirits lift after a laugh?
* It is very important to realize that asking for help is not shameful. Many people are eager to assist us but are hesitant to ask in case we would think they are "butting in." This was very difficult for me. If you ask the same person repeatedly, you may be accused of being demanding, but that is a small price to pay. Some people seem to know instinctively when and how to help, and some do not, but those who do not may appreciate receiving direction. I found the world is filled with people eager to help.
Although I am in a wheelchair and have been for many years, I am living in a nursing home that gives excellent care to body and soul. The computer provides me with amusement, challenge, entertainment, and convenience.
The lessons of life were hard to learn, and I am not eager to do it again. In spite of it all, I learned many things I would not have learned had my life been easy and carefree. If you meet a challenge and handle it well, you have added strength to meet the next one.
Life is good and life is precious. I keep reminding myself that it was of this period that I was most afraid! As the saying goes, "It isn't over till it's over."