Soul Sister: Something’s Missing

“Hi Karen. This is Carol. Dr. G said I should talk with you about my MS.”  

I was surprised by the call. When the nurse asked me if I would speak with Carol, I willingly gave her my phone number – two years ago! Two years later, Carol was ready to talk.

I thought that she might ask about topics like how to handle fatigue, best ways to prepare for travel, how to manage symptoms, challenges of medications, injections and physical therapy. 

She knew all that stuff, and if she didn’t, she knew the best thing to do when an MS symptom came up in her life and where to get correct information. She could call her doctor’s office, her local National MS Society office, or visit the Society’s website. She was quite knowledgeable about what to do to stay healthy while living with MS.

So I wondered: Why did she call me?

After a few more phone calls over several weeks’ time, I realized she was searching for a way to be more at ease with this unpredictable disease. She wanted her heart, mind and spirit to cope on a deeper level with the ups and downs and uncertainty of living with MS. She said she just “wasn’t at peace.” Since she called me, I told her that I thought she was searching for spiritual wholeness in her life. I believe that on the journey of a life with MS, spirituality, can lead to healing.

The word “spirituality” sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable, but one way to look at it is simply our inner life. Every person has many facets: the physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and social self. For some, the transforming power of MS might come through the spiritual.

I believe everyone is spiritual by nature, and that our physical, mental and emotional health are fundamentally interdependent with our spirituality. Spirituality is often, but not always, expressed through religion. Other ways to express our spirituality can be through nature, the arts, belief in the common good, or belief in the importance of family or a community. Spirituality helps us wonder about and reflect on the meaning of life, the importance of relationships, the afterlife, or our very persistence in existence.

Carol said she wanted to think about some of these things, and liked the idea that her overall healing might be improved by being mindful of her spiritual life. She admitted that awareness of her spiritual condition had a critical connection with her overall health. She grew up attending services with her family, but was not much of a churchgoer in her adult life. 

“I do not even know the words to say or what I should do now,” she said. I assured her that there were people who could honor her own sense of the sacred very respectfully. Chaplains, ministers, counselors, rabbis, wise friends and elders can suggest books, people and places that are helpful on the spiritual journey.

In this blog, I will explore the world of spirituality and how it can be a factor in healing and wellness. I hope to offer my own spiritual ways of coping with my 40 years of living with MS. I will share what others have found to be meaningful and healing. 

My first challenge to you, should you choose to accept it: go within. Calm and quiet yourself. Breathe and relax. Try to face and then relinquish your fears and anger. See what happens when you regularly connect with your spirit and the force of life as you encounter it.

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Karen Zielinski, OSF

Sister Karen Zielinski was the Director of Communications for the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, from 1991 to 2008. She is now director of Canticle Studio, a creative office of products which focus on spirituality and health. She holds a BA in education and a master’s in music. She is a monthly columnist for several magazines, including St. Anthony Messenger, and is regularly published in other journals. She lectures on chronic disease and coping strategies. Karen has lived with multiple sclerosis since 1975.

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  • Avatar
    jcpacini  Dec 5, 2014 5:41 PM
    Thank you. I too am searching. I am content, for now, knowing that i am on a long strange trip. A journey redefining my purpose. I will not allow MS to win.
  • Ric   Dec 5, 2014 6:09 PM
    I am a Latter-Day-Saint, or a Mormon. I have found that the ability to understand why it is that I have MS, allows me to put it into the proper perspective. Knowing that desease, hardship and the other challenges we face, are not detractors from life, but in part, the reason for it, and I know that I can get help from my Heavanly Father. I think that many times, people associate medical issues as being subject to the rules of science, and they absolutely are.To many people though, science is a non-spiritual subject. I believe it is just the opposite. Who knows better how to manage our bodies, than their creator. On a more pragmatic note, if your health is no longer predictable, even from one day to the next, best to have the other areas of your life in order. Spirituality is closely related to socialality, so having a support group starting with your own family, then spreading out to friends and extended family, and then on to include caregivers and so forth. For myself, my relationship with Christ comes first, along with my wife and immediate family. I can't imagine how I would have managed my MS, without Christ, my Heavenly Father or my wife.
  • Avatar
    refusetoquit  Dec 5, 2014 6:19 PM
    Very nice........even though my faith is a strong leader in managing life with MS, I still felt the lessons I've learned as MS lead the way in my daily life, that 'happy', or 'content' feeling couldn't be explained. How can I feel thid content feeling with MS and not able to walk? As I learnd to recognize things that presented themselves to me, I'd ask Why? My spiritual guidance led me to "Awareness Through Healing", and my favorite, "The Presence Process ". It all came together for me..............looking 'within', instead of 'out there' for answers. Although it needs to be a daily process looking and finding that peace, it's there to be had..............just 'be'. Thanks Karen, you're on to something.......
  • Carolyn Cordon   Dec 5, 2014 7:32 PM
    These words are beautiful. I have found a sense of purpose since being diagnosed with MS. This crazy chronic illness has helped me to find the way I truly want my life to be, and I finally feel able, and allowed to do the things that truly are what I want to spend my life doing.
    Writing about my new life, and self-publishing this memoir, putting together and again self-publishing a collection of quite personal poetry covering a matter from my childhood and into the current date - these things have allowed me to connect with others on a deep and yes, spiritual way.

    MS is my permission slip to a deeper and more wonderful and caring life. I believe in Good, rather than a God, as such, and further feel the two may be manifestations of the same thing. Good and Nature rock my socks!
  • Vicky   Dec 6, 2014 7:50 AM
    Hi Karen - I am also a religious and have had MS since 2007. Thank you for your awesome response - it took going away for 22 months to come to grips with MS and all that happens with it. I was in such denial. I thank God for my community's loving support. Today I know that this disease is a part of me, but not who I am. I live one day at a time, trusting God and others. I am not alone. I thank you for your words of hope. Vicky
  • Avatar
    kzielinski  Dec 6, 2014 9:33 AM
    I am touched by the comments so far. Persons with MS are strong, determined and tap into their spiritual side. Peace to all of you!
  • LAUSIE GARVIN   Dec 6, 2014 3:00 PM
    It was a blessing to read this posting. God Bless you Karen
  • kathy   Dec 6, 2014 3:18 PM
    I look forward to this ongoing discussion! I do not have MS but "the ups and downs and uncertainties of living", even without MS, can leave one searching for peace and wholeness.
    Thank you for allowing me to be part of this!
  • Avatar
    maria1  Dec 7, 2014 9:41 PM
    Since I have no affinity for religion I am unable to find any definition of spirituality and what it really means. If it is a reference to ones inner self and living a life being true to what one accepts as a code of ethics or integrity then I understand. But alas, I am still perplexed. Knowing who I am and what i stand for may be close,being true to my self is a peace I know.
  • maria1   Dec 9, 2014 1:21 PM
    To maria1--I think your looking at your self, your intergrity to things, and feeling at peace is spiritual. It goes way beyond religion...thanns for your comments and inisights.
  • Jacque Pratt   Dec 10, 2014 10:02 AM
    Sr.Karen has a faith, ministry and humor to face multiple sclerosis. Karen was an original Peer Support Person 20 years ago. Her giving knows no depth.
  • Avatar
    anna5050  Dec 19, 2014 2:44 PM
    I would like to explore this spiritual group. I am not on any medication. I have tried to become one with the Higher Power GOD. That is what is keeping me going. I would like to find people like me living in this world just cooping with my MS. It don't have me. I'm traveling south for the winter. I'm in Florida now. It is nice. Much better for my pain than New England weather. I hope people can talk by email.. Have a great Holiday.
  • Avatar
    anna5050  Dec 22, 2014 2:01 PM
    Anna, glad you are enjoying Florida better than New England this winter! I will email you soon.
  • Avatar
    sue-peer  Dec 29, 2014 1:15 PM
    I think your focus onspiritityand heth is definitely the way to go with ms. I have lived with ms for over 45 years.
    I continue to move forward only by the grace of Gpd. For this, I am thankful.

    Thanks for your good work.
  • angelsoul2  Feb 6, 2015 8:40 AM
    I too am searching..I believe anyone who is lost in what I call dis...ease. I am at a loss and I keep coming back to these 2 letters...MS! I think I am not alone, here makes sense. I hope I can find people of the same mind and knowing along with information to help me on my here I go.....
  • wheele400001  Feb 23, 2015 9:06 PM
    I really don't know how to start . Mutiple Sclerosis, have had me for 11 years there have been very very frighten time . God bless me with good doctors
    to help me through those. times. They are still there to help me . I have learn ms have me! I tell othere they should say they do not have multiple sclerosis,it have them . I pray a lot with hops i take. j talk a lot with others that in this fight. I use the words GETTING HIGH i get funny looks when i say that. That's what i get when i help others . I'M at a stand still now i feel like i should be doing much more. I don't know what !
  • Carol   Mar 1, 2015 9:11 PM
    Thanks for including spirituality to coping with MS! I feel it is a definite help in living life to the fullest. God is my constant companion and my strength! I look forward to your future posts on your blog, Sister Karen.