Acceptance and I have a rocky past. When I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2002, I experienced shock, fear, a little bit of self-pity, and finally resignation- but never acceptance.
I have MS, now what?
When I first heard the words, Multiple Sclerosis, I didn’t really understand what it meant for my future. I sat in the ER with my eye facing in the wrong direction experiencing severe vertigo and double vision and was told I had a mini-stroke, MS, or a brain tumor. One of the doctors said to hope for the brain tumor because they could remove that. It seemed so foreign that I immediately cracked a joke to my husband that I should have gotten life insurance. It just didn’t seem like something that could happen to me. I believed them but at the same time was thinking, no way. I naively sat there waiting for them to fix my eye so that I could go home, totally unaware that my world had forever changed.
After several months of new MS symptoms, uncertainty, doctors in disagreement, and endless testing, I was relieved to have a definitive diagnosis even if it was MS. I figured if the disease had a name, it must have a treatment and I wanted to get started on getting better.
I don’t remember exactly when I heard the words no cure but I distinctly remember when it finally clicked that I was being prescribed drugs that would not heal me. Up until then, my experience was you got sick, you got medicine, you got better. Not this time, I would have MS forever.
I began to research complementary treatments but was told not to bother because they didn’t work. Without options to pro-actively help myself, I went from hopeful to defeated just like that.
Before MS & After
It’s overwhelming and unnerving to learn that you have an incurable disease. Suddenly life feels divided into ‘before and after.’ Every decision and every action you take after that is shaped by that knowledge. An invisible veil of uncertainty follows you around and casts a shadow on everything you do.
For years, I quietly dealt with symptoms and relapses while my life turned into a silent struggle. I could no longer do all the things I once could but I would not admit it and continued to push myself to the point where it was all or nothing. When I participated in things, I’d have to recover for days. I began to do less, cancel more and I felt very alone.
Denial is self-destructive
Allow yourself space to grieve for the way things were before or for the things lost along the way. Holding it in causes pain and anxiety and keeps you stuck in whatever story you tell yourself. I didn’t let myself plan for a future I wasn’t sure I’d get. I lived day to day, going through the motions, planning for the worst, and hoping for the best. Pretending everything is okay all the time is self-defeating. It takes a huge toll on the body and mind.
Don’t let ‘what-if’ win
Instead of wasting time and energy constantly thinking about scary things that have never happened and possibly never will, let it go. Fear and uncertainty that is allowed to creep into your life will hold you back from doing what you want to do and being who you want to be. Don’t look behind you, focus on what is ahead.
Adapt to thrive
The reality of living with an incurable, unpredictable disease means learning to be flexible and to let good, be good enough. Letting go of how we think things should be and accepting things how they are right now is fundamental for personal growth. Adapt so that you can move forward.
Acceptance is not about giving up
Acceptance is a gift to yourself. It means that you recognize that at that moment in time, you can’t change certain things, so you make a choice to learn how to live with them. By learning to focus on what you can control and releasing the rest, you permit yourself to see possibilities instead of obstacles. This allows for new beginnings.
- Acknowledge feelings of anger, fear, regret, and grief. It is the first step to confronting these emotions.
- Visualize what your life would look like if you let these things go.
- Give yourself the opportunity to see what you have gained from your experience.
- Make a list of what you’re good at and celebrate your strengths.
- Decide on realistic, attainable goals that will bring you fulfillment and a sense of purpose.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself.
- Focus on new things to experience and enjoy.
- Acknowledge your positive impact on those around you.
- Speak kindly to yourself.
- Appreciate the qualities that make you unique.
Embrace who you are!
Self-acceptance is about the relationship you have with yourself. Value yourself unconditionally. Embrace who you are right now. Not who you want to be or who people expect you to be. There is a feeling of empowerment when you learn to appreciate and value yourself. You begin to view life in a more positive state of mind and the weight on your shoulders feels a little lighter. You realize that you can control how you react to your circumstances, you have the power to change things, and that nothing is inevitable.