From the moment of my diagnosis, I was determined not to let MS defeat me. Although I was terrified of what MS would mean for my future, I slowly gathered my armor; (information), made my battle plan (improved diet, exercise, sleep and stress management strategies) and planted my feet for a fight.
Lines were drawn between me and my immune system, both sides gaining and losing ground. While I hoped for a truce, I diligently worked on fortifying myself from the inside out, but MS was persistent. Through the years, I learned to acknowledge and trust in attributes that I never knew I had. I came to understand that these qualities were secret weapons to help me in my fight toward wellness.
I used to think my strongest trait was resilience. I’ve always had the ability to see bad situations as temporary and believed that I could get through anything. Although that notion has been sorely tested through the years, I have come to realize that my true strength is not in the ability to bounce back, but in the belief that I can.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know I won’t be broken. My body might suffer, and my life may drastically change, but I can only be defeated in my mind. Some people might think my positive attitude is a liability; that I have the wool pulled over my eyes and I’m going to get sucker-punched. Maybe I will, but I can guarantee I’ll get back up. It’s who I am. My superpower is optimism!
We all have superpowers. They define who we are and what makes us strong. They are our skills, talents, and elements that create inner strength. These traits work silently in the background and help us navigate our lives.
Here are some super-powerful character traits:
- Optimism is the ability to see negative situations with a positive outcome. An optimist will access their situation and look for effective ways to remedy it, while a pessimist will expect a bad outcome and get stuck in a spiral of negativity. To me, optimism is the key to overcoming adversity.
- Resilience is a fundamental quality to have when dealing with any kind of illness. Without the ability to rebound mentally from unfavorable news, people find it more difficult to cope, and circumstances become overwhelming. Here are some action steps I’ve developed to build resilience.
- Perseverance is continuing to do something even if it’s difficult and even if success is not guaranteed.
- Adaptability is the ability to be flexible when circumstances change or to learn how to do something in a new or different way.
- Courage – we all learn to be brave when we have no choice, but some people can overcome their challenges without fear.
- Wisdom is being able to learn from both our personal victories and hardships and to use those lessons for personal growth.
- Forgiveness – coming to terms with things in your past may help you heal and move forward.
- Kindness makes you happy! The act of being kind releases serotonin, creating a natural high and feelings of calmness! Habitual kindness lowers stress levels and blood pressure and produces endorphins which help decrease pain.
- Humor can be a lifeline when living with a chronic illness. Sometimes things can get pretty dark, and having a good sense of humor can keep you sane and looking forward.
- Creativity – some of us are born with a natural ability to use our hands and minds to create new things or think of unique ways to explore our world. These skills can become invaluable wellness tools. Defining and expressing emotions through mediums like art and journaling can be very healing ways to focus thoughts and develop coping strategies.
- Hope is having faith in a positive outcome, no matter how bad things may appear. Hope can propel you to take the necessary steps to achieve your envisioned outcome. Physically, hope causes the brain to release neurochemicals that mimic the effects of morphine, which enables the brain to overcome hurdles and move to a place of recovery.
- Acceptance – being able to accept what you cannot change is an invaluable trait. It enables people to get on with their lives. Acceptance is the first step to living with chronic illness.
What’s your Superpower?
Traci was diagnosed in 2002 and shares her personal insight and passion for healthy living in her blog, MS Wellness Project: Living & Thriving with Multiple Sclerosis and through an online Facebook group.
This article was first published in the MS Connection Blog