As I noted in last month’s post, the mistakes I made since being diagnosed with MS were all pretty big and dramatic. The best things I have done since diagnosis are mostly small and practical, banal even, but they helped all the same.
Best Thing #1: Writing my blogs
Hands down, blogging is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, period.
I have been writing since I was old enough to know what it meant, but I never made the time or had the courage to put it out there or try to have anything published.
Then came blogging. I had been thinking about writing a blog for a while, but I was really apprehensive. I took my time, did a lot of preparation and then, nervously, took the leap.
Well, I have had the best time writing these blogs! My readers are utterly wonderful and many have become true friends. I have received feedback that is so touching, so kind and so encouraging it has been a real gift.
My point here is, do what you love. You deserve it. It’s time. When we have a chronic illness, it is easy to fall into a life that is limited. We don’t feel well and everything is an effort. But try and ask yourself, what is the passion that you have been too busy for? This is the chance to cultivate the things that are most meaningful to you.
Best Thing #2: I acknowledge what my body is telling me.
Me? Listen to my body?!? Hahahahahahahaha. The only thing I ever listened to was the voice in my head that ran persistently into the future, telling me all the things I had to do. It. Never. Stopped. For. One. Minute. Then came MS.
In the beginning, I ignored my symptoms. I DEFIED them. I kept working, cleaning, shopping, doing, doing, doing. And I paid the price with regular relapses, needing a course of IV steroids to get me functioning again. I had more and more residual deficits each time. It took forever, but I finally allowed myself to respect the fact that I needed to listen for cues and anticipate my needs before they got to a crisis point.
Best Thing # 3: My “overbed” table
Go ahead, laugh. It is, after my laptop, my most treasured possession in the world. After my diagnosis with MS, I was juggling my entire life on my bed and nightstand. Juggling unsuccessfully, I might add. So a friend suggested getting “one of those tables like they have in the hospital.” I am a nurse and I have seen unspeakably disgusting things on bedside tables. I can cope with these things professionally. But I certainly didn’t want those memories lingering near my own bed.
So I resisted. And I spilled things and lost things and sat on things because my bed was a disorganized mess. In desperation, I priced what are called “overbed” tables. I was delighted to find they had a different name: laptop tables!! Well, these didn’t conjure up memories of basins or bedpans for me. What’s more, they were reasonably priced. So I bought one. And I love, love, love it.
It has a tilt top side for my laptop, a solid side for books, cups, plates, etc., and wheels that allow it to be pushed out of the way. The wheels are probably the weakest link as they will not roll over anything thicker than a human hair, but that is just a quibble. I stitched up a big tote bag with half a dozen pockets that hangs over the side of the table to hold my knitting, my iPod, my mobile phone, CDs, pens and notepads. It is like another limb.
Best Thing #4: Reach-y thingies
Whether because of the numbness and weakness in my hands or because I am simply clumsy, I do not know. I just know I drop and/or knock over everything. And, because of being so spastic and weak, I have the darndest time picking up the things I have pitched to the floor.
It took years before it occurred to me, but with a lightning strike of brilliance (yes, that is sarcasm), I finally bought several reach-y thingies. I do believe that is the technical name for them. [Note: the technical name is reachers.]
I bought ones that fold in half for the kitchen and bedroom, and that have wide, rubberized tips so I can pick up a variety of things. For the den, where I sew, (this was extra brilliant) I bought one with a magnetized tip because I am sick of playing 500 pick-up with the cups of pins I am perpetually spilling. Voila! Now all I have to do when I need a pin is stick my magnetized reacher on the floor and I come up with a dozen. I usually come up with a dozen other things as well, but we won’t talk about that.
Best Thing #5: Admitting I have MS
Crazy, huh? That having MS would be on any sort of “Best Things” list? Having MS certainly isn’t the best of anything.
I resisted the MS label for a long, long time. Denial is a great protective mechanism for a while. It is a good place to hide while the shock registers in your brain. But, when you’re in it, it is really hard to discern when denial goes from protective to destructive. For me, it was damaging when I wasn’t taking care of myself or accepting help because I refused to accept that I was sick. MS has no tolerance for not taking care of yourself. It is a punishing disease that punishes you even more if you disregard it. By admitting I have it, I am free to take better care of myself.
That is the uniting theme here in my Five Best Things – do what is best for you. What is best to make your life simpler, happier, healthier. I am not a fan of the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life is hard enough at the best of times. My opinion is, if life gives you lemons then you have too many dang lemons. And I don’t even like lemonade. But we are stuck with this disease and taking good care of ourselves is the best way to cope. I suppose that could be considered a form of making lemonade out of lemons. Although if I have to make something, then what I’d really like is lemon vodka. :)