New Year = Clean Slate Acceptance is the first step when living with a chronic illness

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“When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible.”

                                                                                                               Tina Lifford

Instead of starting the year resolving to fix whatever you think is wrong with you, why not start with a clean slate? Stop comparing yourself to who you use to be, or want to be, or who you think you should be. Accept who you are right now.

Acceptance and I have a rocky past. We all have things we like and don’t like about ourselves or our circumstances. If we let these things define and consume us, it can lead to pain and anxiety. If we choose to acknowledge them and put them in their place, we can begin to move forward.  Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re choosing something. It means you recognize that at that moment you can’t change things, so for now you’ll be at peace with it.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2002, acceptance did not come easily for me. It was a process that took me years.  I did not want to believe that I had an incurable disease. It made me think I was abnormal and faulty. I felt like I was somehow broken. That I was something that needed to be fixed. That I was something that couldn’t be fixed. It was unnerving to be told that my only choice was to take medication with dangerous side effects that might slow down the inevitable but would not heal me. It was a devastating realization to know that I might end up disabled. I was only 35 years old.

So, I ignored it. I understood the diagnosis. I took the medication. I quietly dealt with the symptoms and the relapses. I lived my life pretending to myself that nothing had changed. But my life had turned into a silent struggle. I never expressed my feelings about having MS. I should have let myself grieve for the things that I could no longer do and have focused on new things to experience and enjoy. One day it occurred to me that life would be so much easier if I just shared how MS was affecting me. How could I expect anyone to understand what was happening if I didn’t tell them? How could I tell them if I didn’t admit it to myself?  I knew I needed to finally accept how MS had changed my life and confront it. I needed to say it out loud and talk about it. Pretending was exhausting and self-destructive.

Once I had accepted that my life had changed things got easier. I was able to see my situation in a new light and not necessarily a bad one. This new version of myself tired more easily, stumbled a bit, missed more events and forgot stuff but nobody cared that I couldn’t do all the things that I once could. I didn’t have anything to prove. I had put that on myself. I was still the same person I always was. I was the one who had forgotten that.

There is something very empowering that comes from appreciating and valuing yourself. You begin to view circumstances differently. The weight on your shoulders feels a little lighter. You see possibilities instead of obstacles. You realize that nothing is inevitable. Your life will be whatever you make of it.  Acceptance is not about giving up, it’s allowing yourself a future. It gives you a deeper sense of who you are and what you are capable of.  You allow yourself the freedom to be yourself.  Self- acceptance is tied to self-esteem and can affect your physical and mental health. According to an article in the Harvard Health Blog, people who accept themselves have more gray matter than those who think negatively about themselves and that poor self-acceptance affects the region of the brain that controls emotion.1

Don’t make resolutions trying to fix yourself, you are not broken. Instead, celebrate your strengths. Make a list of what you like about yourself and what you’re good at. Acknowledge how you positively impact other people’s lives.  Don’t settle for less than you deserve, especially from yourself. Don’t let worry, disappointment, self-doubt or fear leach the joy from your life. Know your worth. Don’t worry about who you used to be and embrace who you are now.  

  Acceptance is the first step toward believing in yourself.

Do you struggle with self-acceptance? Take a few moments to acknowledge these feelings. What will it take for you to accept this part of yourself? How would that change your life? Do you need to release denial, anger, fear, hurt, judgement? Think about what is making you hold on to these feelings. Visualize what your life will look like if you let these things go. How will that make you feel? Content? At peace? Happy? Hold onto that feeling as inspiration to trust in yourself and accept all of you. You are good enough just the way you are. Right now. Today. Remember that!

Happy New Year!

Traci

  1. Pillay, Srini, Harvard Health Blog, “Greater self-acceptance improves emotional well-being” May 16, 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/grater-self-acceptance-improves-emotional-well-201605169546

4 thoughts on “New Year = Clean Slate Acceptance is the first step when living with a chronic illness”

  1. Thank you – reading the article is as if you were speaking directly to me. Although I am nowhere near acceptance, I will work to get there. Kindest regards!

    1. Amy, I’m glad the article resonated with you. Acceptance was difficult for me too until I realized I was giving this disease too much power over me. I started by trying to deal with symptoms more as a temporary nuisance than a life changing event. Sometimes unrealistic, but mindset is a powerful thing. I had to believe I was going to be okay, and I am. You’ll get there. We all must deal with MS at our own pace. Never stop believing in yourself! Traci

  2. I don’t struggle with acceptance and I don’t have any new year resolutions, never have, but for some reason I do love this MS blog. I was dx (diagnosed) with SPMS (Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) in April pf 2012, and starting 2019 with a clean slate, for some reason, sounds pretty good to me. I know not why. But this webpage and its creator have inspired me. Not only to write this response, but to think differently, or, as I have written in the past, exercise my soul. And for that, dear Traci, I thank you.

    Looking back, I had no trouble accepting my diagnosis. I was in my early 40’s, divorced about 10 years with no children, starting a new career as a lawyer and my dad asked if I was limping. I said no, astonished he even asked. But soon enough I started exhibiting symptoms of MS. shortly thereafter I was dx, and then I got that little wheelchair dude on my license plate and things started to change exponentially.

    I totally immersed myself in MS blogs and MS research. I checked out books from the library, even bought MS for Dummies by Rosalind Kalb which I recommend to anyone dealing with MS. What really got me going on this MS journey was OMS (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.) Oddly enough, my cousin from the Netherlands (male and rapidly approaching his 40’s) was also dx with MS. He recommended this book called OMS by some Australian Dr. who also happened to have MS. This is what began my MS journey.

    Today, rapidly approaching 50 and having been dx about 7 years ago, I seem to experience the stages of grief every few months at least for the last few years. I still can’t believe what is happening to my body. But I usually come around to acceptance and accept my new normal, however begrudgingly (or not.) Its pages like this that help me keep going. Thanks again Traci.

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