How to Remain Optimistic With MS
Counselor Eric Patterson and MSer Gerard Blink share their thoughts on optimism despite illness.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is scary. The more you read, and the more you experience, the scarier it can get. But you cannot let your fear control your thoughts, feelings and behaviors; if you do, your life will only become more limited and frustrating. Not only will that negatively affect you, but it will affect the people you care about as well.
Counselor Eric's Tips for Staying Optimistic With MS
Staying positive in the face of MS does not just happen. You have to make it happen. Here are some simple tips to help:
- Seek out a good doctor. Comfort with your doctor is crucial. Consider what you are looking for in a doctor: do you want a matter-of-fact delivery of information or someone that is more nurturing?
- Seek out reliable information. Reading and reacting to the wrong information can lead to hopelessness and self-doubt. Set your eyes to the facts — statistics, data and research studies will provide the facts without bias.
- Manage flares. Plan for different levels of flares, from mild to moderate to severe. List the symptoms you will likely experience in each level of severity and the appropriate response to those symptoms.
- Manage expectations. Expectations filter your perceptions of the world around you. Expectations that are too high lead to frequent letdowns and disappointments. Expectations that are too low can be so discouraging that you may not even try since you believe failure is assured.
- Get active. As important as it is to avoid negative influences, it is more important to seek out positive ones. Find a group for people with MS — the people and experiences can illustrate the potential of life with MS. With involvement comes empowerment.
You are a person with MS, but you will not let MS dictate who you are and who you will become. The biggest possible loss is of your optimism; keep working on your goals and managing your expectations and positivity will stay with you.
MSer Gerard's Tips for Staying Optimistic With MS
Nobody feels positive all the time. In absolute truth, that would be completely unnatural, especially under the cloud of MS. So, take a minute, feel sad, depressed and that life’s not fair — and then get started feeling none of the above.
MS is now a part of your life, but it does not need define you. While ultimately you might feel as though you have no control, you cannot allow it to ever control the person inside you.
We know it is not a death-sentence; we all have many (many many) years to live and we can do so productively, and more importantly, happily.
In my case, I was diagnosed in 2000, but there were symptoms going back to the mid-90s. So I'm pretty much 20 years in on this thing.
The list of “things MS does not allow me to do anymore” is a significant list (back in the days when I actually kept a list like that, and believe me, I did). I do not keep such a list anymore, because the list I keep now is “things I still do, still have and still love.” It's a much more important list.
The other truth is the fact that there are billions of people on this planet who would change places with any of us in a heartbeat. I do say that a lot, because it's one of those things I do think about often when I think I've been dealt a crappy hand in life.