Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Survival of the Not-so-Fit

When you have MS, you can sometimes feel like you are struggling to survive in a world where no one understands what you are going through and negative feelings are lurking around every corner, waiting to strike.

And it is hard enough being slower than you'd like and fighting off fatigue and other symptoms on a daily basis while still doing the same things other, fitter people do - hold down a job, take care of kids, a home, etc.

My best survival strategy has been to keep the positive energy flowing in my life.

One thing I always make sure to do is to keep conversations upbeat. When talking about your condition, focus on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses - those silly falls or butterfingers. And don't let the subject of MS dominate the entire conversation. There are so many better things to talk about.

Sometimes talking about your condition with the people in your life can be like stepping in quicksand - you'll want to get out of it right away. There are the people who think they know what is best for you and try to tell you what to do, there are the people who say the wrong things. Sometimes I have had to minimize contact with certain folks - if they don't understand, are uncomfortable around you or just plain make you upset, they are not helping.

That's not to say they don't have good intentions - sometimes people may want to be supportive, but they don't really know how. And others just don't get it. Educate those you can. Join a support group. Surround yourself with positive people and positive conversation.

Other tools I always have in my survival kit:

Laughter. I say laugh as often as you can. Learn to laugh at yourself and your shortcomings. If you can make others laugh, that's even better. Spread the positive energy around.

Hope. It's always important to try to maintain a hopeful outlook. I mostly focus on the now when it comes to my MS. I just take it day to day, and when it comes to the future, I just hope for the best and that science will find a way to rescue those of us who are affected by illness.

Determination. You hear people say it all the time, "I'm not going to let this thing beat me." If I fall down, I get up. And as things have gotten harder, I keep plugging away. You have to have the will to survive.

"You cannot run away from weakness: you must some time fight it out or perish." - Robert Louis Stevenson

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