“Thank You” are certainly two words that I never thought I would be saying to Multiple Sclerosis.
Why would I thank the incurable disease that’s attacking my brain?
Yet having lived with this diagnosis for more than 7 years now, I can honestly say that it actually has changed some things for the better.
So in this special Thanksgiving post, I’m talking about gratitude – not just from the easy days – but from the lessons it’s taught me and the unexpected ways it’s changed my life and how it can for you too.
And if you’re in a season right now, where you’re struggling to find hope in this diagnosis, I have a message for you too – straight from my heart to yours.
Coming to Peace with Multiple Sclerosis
I grew up in a home where we always looked for the silver linings.
If I’m being honest, it was kind of annoying.
Not everything has to have a happy spin on it, right?
I mean, am I really suggesting that something good came from an incurable disease?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
I certainly didn’t start here.
It’s taken me years to really see the good, and there are still countless days where I’m resentful of MS, but that’s exactly why this conversation is so important.
Living with MS can mess with your head at times – in more ways than one!
I’m not just talking about your lesions, I’m talking about your mindset.
I’ve been reading a lot about mindset lately and am just blown away by how much our thoughts and the story we tell ourselves or the meaning we give to our experiences can completely change our lives.
My Daily Armor of Hope
So I like to think of putting on an armor of hope each day that my feet hit the floor.
Just as I put on clothes to start my day, I put on this armor that helps to shield me from all of the negativity I could easily get lost in and shines some light on the positive things in my day.
So, whether you’re newly diagnosed, a long-term warrior, or someone who’s just trying to understand what living with MS is like, I recorded this episode for all of us… for our entire community of amazing people wanting to live beyond their diagnosis.
As I was preparing for this episode, I really gave it some thought… How has MS changed my life for the better?
And a funny thing happened.
The Surprise in Identifying 3 Lessons
I wanted to identify 3 things – that allows me to go into some detail and share some personal stories, but not make the episode too long.
Well, as I started brainstorming, I found myself identifying 3 ways… then 4… then 5 ways.
It was such a lightbulb moment.
It’s like THIS is exactly what I’m talking about!
I feel like I say this on every episode but that which you focus on gets better.
You train your brain what you want it to pay attention to and identify in your world.
So for the record, this doesn’t count as one of my three things – I still have my three lessons – it’s like I’m protecting my 3 wishes to a genie in a bottle haha!
But I can’t not acknowledge the mindset… Okay, you know what I am going to make this my first one because it’s played too big of a role in my life not to talk about.
So, here we go these are my top 3 Unexpected Lessons that have me saying Thank You MS.
Lesson 1: Managing Mindset
To tell this story properly I have to take you back to one of my first yoga classes.
I remember the instructor guiding us through the traditional stretches – downward dog, warrior 1, warrior 2, tree pose – all the ways in which we could length our muscles, right?
But as she was doing so she’s talking to us about our thoughts.
She tells us that the voice in our head is not us.
So naturally, my first thought was, well then who is it?
Who is living in my head?
She explained that the voice in our heads is not who we are, it’s simply a stream of thoughts that we have chosen to believe.
And if we didn’t like the dialogue, we had the ability to change it.
The Power to Change Our Thoughts
We had the power to change our thoughts.
That’s the first time that concept was introduced to me.
And I think because it was in the environment of a yoga studio, I considered it to be a little out there.
Nonetheless, it planted a seed that once I was diagnosed with MS started to really bloom.
Because when I got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, as determined as I was to not let MS stand in my way of living my life – I still dealt with a lot of fear.
And I started to realize how much that voice in my head was taking me down a rabbit hole of what ifs and worst case scenarios.
And they were on a constant loop playing day and night.
Just a little side note, but did you know that the average person has about 12K to 60K thoughts per day?
And here’s the disturbing part… Researchers estimate that 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive.
Just take that in for a minute. That means that if you’re just letting your thoughts run the show, you’ll have negative thoughts on repeat every single day.
And we wonder why we lack motivation!
Overcoming the Motivation Trap
If our mind is thinking negative thoughts all day long, how likely are you to make changes or to pursue a dream? You’re not.
And I started to feel this as I was trying to wrap my head around my diagnosis.
And if I’m being honest, it’s something that I still struggle with.
This voice and these thoughts are taking us in one of two directions:
- Towards our goals or
- Away from our goals
There’s really no such thing as sitting idol in life.
But my point is, MS really brought my attention back to my mindset and I realized that there was too much on the line here.
I can’t let this voice constantly feed me negative thoughts and worst case scenarios.
I have to interrupt those thoughts and start paving new patterns in my mind with thoughts that are supporting me – not tearing me down.
So what does this look like for me?
Honestly, it’s a daily battle.
I mentioned earlier the idea of putting on an armor of hope each day and I truly see it that way.
Thank you MS for the Renewed Mindset
Putting on an armor to guard against those negative thoughts.
But again, to make this more practical and tangible, when I catch myself thinking a negative thought, I try to interrupt it every time because when we interrupt it, we weaken it.
The more times you think a thought, the more your brain imprints that thought in your head so it’s like saving that thought to your favorites playlist.
But the more we stop and skip to the next though the sooner it realizes that’s not a thought we want again so it starts to fall off the list.
Does this happen the first day you start practicing this?
No, absolutely not!
Mindset is a Daily Practice
It takes daily practice for weeks, months and sometimes years.
And while that sounds a bit depressing or discouraging, what’s the alternative?
You’re going to live each day with 60K thoughts looping through your mind 80% of which are negative?
I’m not allowing that.
MS sparked this fire in me.
Because the reality is, prior to my diagnosis, my thoughts were kinda luke warm.
They weren’t all rainbows and unicorns, there was still a lot of doubt and insecurities, but there wasn’t enough tension between my thoughts and me to really see what they were doing.
They were just playing in the background.
But once MS came into the picture – they got louder and they were filled with really big worries.
And I realized that it was going to have too significant of a role in how I lived life with MS.
I had a choice.
Let the voice run the show with a false narrative about my life, or I start stepping up by interrupting these thoughts and build a more positive experience with MS.
So, my first thank you to MS, thank you for the awareness that I can change my thoughts and that in and of itself can help me to live a better life with MS.
I wouldn’t have had this strong of a desire without my diagnosis, and likely would have just kept on believing the negative narrative. And even if that narrative didn’t include MS, it certainly wasn’t helping me to live my best life.
So for this, I’m grateful.
Thank you MS for the Renewed Mindset.
Lesson 2: Get Off the Hamster Wheel in Life
The second unexpected lesson I got from MS is about how I spend my time.
Prior to my diagnosis, I used to juggle a busy nutrition practice, family, home and a busy social calendar.
It was tiring, but it also felt good to get things done.
Then MS comes into the picture, and it can feel like you don’t have the energy or focus to get through the basics of your day, let alone any additional things.
You likely heard me say it before, but what if MS is giving us the gift to be more intentional with our time and energy now?
That’s how I started to see it.
MS: My Compass, Not My Constraint
MS became my compass with time – not my constraint?
Yes, we likely have less energy than most, but what if we were able to use it wisely instead of spending it frivolously?
It’s similar to how we manage money.
A person who has all the money in the world but isn’t intentional with it – can end up broke. We hear all the time about major celebrities going bankrupt because money didn’t hold the same value when they had so much. They spent it with little thought.
On the other hand, take teachers for example. They often have limited funds and therefore are forced to become really intentional with their money. They may create a budget and start building their savings account. And believe it or not, they tend to be the ones that end up on top. I was shocked when I learned from Dave Ramsey that teachers can have just as good of a chance of retiring as a millionaire as a doctor.
Not because they earned more money.
How to “Spend” Time Intentionally
Because they were intentional with how they spent the money that they had.
THAT’s what I want for us when it comes to our time and energy.
I want us to be really intentional with how we spend it.
Now just like someone on a limited income who feels restricted by their budget, we may feel restricted in life because we have limited energy. We may feel disappointed, discouraged and even resentful.
But what if we flip the script and decide that we’re going to be more intentional with our time and energy, we can come out on top too.
We may have less to spend, but if we spend it wisely, we can have more meaningful memories to look back on at the end of our life. Isn’t that what we all want anyway?
So how exactly do we start to make this happen?
Thank You MS for Identifying My Life Priorities
The first step is identifying what’s most important to you.
How will you know what’s worth your time and energy if you don’t clearly identify what is most important to you in life?
You need a destination to set our compass to.
Just as a budget directs how you spend your money, understanding your priorities in life guides how you spend your time and energy.
So that’s my second thank you to MS.
Thank you for helping me to better prioritize my time and energy.
Lesson 3: Better Care for Family + Friends
And last but not least, MS brought me into a wealth of knowledge about health and healing that I never would have discovered.
This knowledge has helped me to navigate my own health journey but it’s also positioned me to better care for my family and friends.
And that’s everything to me!
It’s armed me with knowledge that helps me to best care for my family and friends. I am able to make better decisions about my daughter’s health and my family as a whole.
That is a gift that I am forever grateful for.
Thank You MS for Helping Me to Give the Gift of Health.
Message of Hope
Now I also want to share with you that the beginning stages of a diagnosis are hard. You know that because you’re living it firsthand. But we don’t always have the ability to step back and see the enormity of what we’re going through. Instead we can easily get lost in the overwhelm or frustrated with ourselves that we’re not making decisions fast enough.
My friend, I encourage you to honor where you’re at. Wherever you’re at right now, honor that space.
Healing takes time. Stay connected on this blog, listen to my podcast and seek the support that you need to get through this season. Give yourself grace and have compassion with yourself along the way.
Now I would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below. What lessons have you learned from living with Multiple Sclerosis?