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πŸ† Multiple Sclerosis - 3 Keys to Take Back Control

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In review, allow acceptance to be there because MS is going to play a role in your life. When you push it away, what you're saying is I'm denying the fact that I live with MS. Don’t do that. It’s not a happy way forward.

Make that list of 10 things that you do have control over in your life. Focus on one of them. Pick the easiest and commit to regularly focusing on taking action. You will feel empowered. It will bring you confidence. It will remind you that you do have control over your life and that your life is moving forward with hope, possibility, excitement and so much more.

Multiple Sclerosis - 3 Keys to Take Back Control

If it seems strange to accept MS, then remember it is a part of you no matter how small or big of a role it plays in your life. When you accept MS, you'll realize you have more control over your life versus less.

I want to talk about acceptance, the big, scary elephant in the room. It's amazing how we often equate multiple sclerosis with fear, with worry, with discouragement, disappointment and grief.  All of those feelings are real.

Yet when you push away accepting MS, it actually makes MS a bigger problem in your life than smaller. I know this from personal experience because I spent the first seven months of my life pushing MS away. I felt miserable and that I had absolutely no control of my life.

Then I felt angry. There's nothing like walking around, feeling angry all the time. It’s true anger will show up in all of our lives after being diagnosed. And as you accept MS as part of your life situation, it will start to dissipate.

Any feeling you experience, starts with a physical sensation in your body first. Then it forms a word in your mind and lastly becomes a reality of what emotion you are feeling.

Just because you accept MS into your life doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to like MS. You can try and eradicate MS from your life, but from my personal experience, it didn’t work out well. So when acceptance is happening, when you're actually just acknowledging that MS is there and that it's in your body, and that you're trying to navigate your life while living with MS, then that creates space. It creates space so that you can ask yourself the questions, “What do I have control of?”

“How can I move my life forward while living with MS.”  For myself, the big turning point was when I started going to therapy. And that's when I realized that I was putting a brave face on in the world. That brave face was actually to my detriment.

I was agitated that people could not see that I was struggling because of the invisibility that can come with living with multiple sclerosis. For sure, it can be super frustrating. Absolutely. Even to this day, people don't necessarily get it or understand unless I communicate with them. Because I'm just living my life so they don't notice my struggles or setbacks. If you have visible physical disabilities showing up, then people will likely notice, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they will equate it with MS. Unless, they know that you live with multiple sclerosis.

Key #1 – Accept MS

Let’s explore three key ways to focus on taking back control of your life. The first key is acknowledging MS and allowing it to just be there.

Like an unwanted guest in your home, just letting it be there. That's so important. Because what you're saying to the brain is, "Hey, I know MS is real, and I'm going to accept it because it's not going anywhere.  It's not going to pack up and move out tomorrow.” I'm going to accept MS into my life. So that's number one is accepting.

Key #2 Identify What You Have Control Of

The second key is to ask yourself, these questions, "How can I take control of my life?” And in fact, if I were to reframe this question, I’d ask, “In what way can I take control of my life?” Then see what comes to you.

I recognized I had control of certain aspects of my life. I had control over taking naps, even though I didn't want to in the early days. I noticed I had control over my thinking. For instance, how others around me perceive MS.

What do you have control over? Let's say you were to come up with a list of 10 things that you have control over in your life. Pick one and put your attention towards that one thing. Once you gain more control in that area of your life, because you're putting your attention towards it, then you can move onto the next item on your list.

The first three years of my life were pretty messy living with MS. Even when I started to accept it, I was having huge, massive relapses around vertigo. It was so bad, I could  barely leave my house. I was constantly laying on my floor or laying in my bed. I was crying. It was a very difficult time.

Over time I changed my lifestyle. I focused on what I could do and where I could gain back control. What kind of exercise could I do now? I could no longer run. Although it had brought me joy, I realized I could do other forms of exercise like walk.  

I could take a walk with friends a get my needs met for social connection. I could actually get on my bicycle and cycle. I did have quite a few cycling accidents during the first few years of getting back on my bike. Part of it was caused by my lack of confidence. Part of it was fear.

And so I needed to build back my ability to be more confident about riding my bicycle again. To bust through that fear by recognizing that fear was there. Over time, I've became quite a competent cyclist. I still have to be super careful.

What will it be for you?

What will you start to focus on first and begin to build back your confidence?

Just like for me with the bicycle. I was excited about the possibility of being able to use it again. I have scratches and scrapes,  from even five years ago but I was wearing my helmet and it healed during the months that followed.  I have a scar. But for the most part I have been able to successfully ride my bicycle.

For me, it’s been a very empowering experience.  I want you to think about what's that one thing on your list that you have control over and want to get better at. And as a result you generate more confidence.

So figure out what that is for you.

Don't pick the hardest thing that you do have control over. That's not going to help you build your confidence and get you moving forward in that area of your life.

Key #3 Believe in Yourself

The third key is believe in yourself. Imagine looking back to a time in your life before MS, where you struggled. Then you had a breakthrough where you solved a problem. When you did this, you were able to do something better than you could do before and gained more confidence.

Go back to that time and remember what it was. Because you have that ability, that intrinsic ability inside of you to replicate that resilience, that strategy. Maybe your life situation is different now.

So how can you take that attitude, that courage, that persistence that you had before and apply it to what you currently have control of. Start with small steps to move forward, the small movement that you take, the commitment over time. I've been riding my bike again for 11 years now, again, I still need to be very careful.

I have my hands close to the brakes because I know there are times when things could get precarious for me. And at the same time, when I get on that bike, I have a level of confidence that I didn't have 11 years ago. This is a reminder for me and I hope you experience this too! You can do this!

In review, allow acceptance to be there because MS is going to play a role in your life. When you push it away, what you're saying is I'm denying the fact that I live with MS. Don’t do that. It’s not a happy way forward.

Make that list of 10 things that you do have control over in your life. Focus on one of them. Pick the easiest and commit to regularly focusing on taking action. You will feel empowered. It will bring you confidence. It will remind you that you do have control over your life and that your life is moving forward with hope, possibility, excitement and so much more.

Jen DeTracey is the founder of Women Thriving with MS and a certified coach. Women Thriving with MS is an online community for women living with MS. You can join the private Women Thriving with MS Facebook group it's free and YouTube channel. Jen offers online courses, a membership and coaching.

Jen's been living with multiple sclerosis for over 11 years. She went through this process of surviving with MS to striving MS to thriving MS. She is a guide, coach and teacher who helps you move forward on your journey from surviving to thriving with MS.

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