The beginning of a journey is crucial – it sets the pace and lays the foundation for the rest of the ride. It’s not impossible to change the pace but if you start strong, chances are your strength will only grow during your transition. At least, that’s what I like to believe. Most things I’ve read or been told about MS is that the beginning is the hardest part. It’s that awkward stage where your body is in total shock, experiencing all sorts of symptoms for the first time with no help from medication. For me this meant turning my whole life upside down – dropping out of university, stopping work as a waitress, no driving, stopping all forms of exercise including my job as a pole dance instructor – I had lost all routine (no dance pun intended). The most I could manage was a short coffee outing – and that was only on a good day! My life consists of bed, Netflix and a whole lot of naps.
At first I was kind of enjoying the time to relax but after a few days the boredom set in. I realised that no matter how badly I wanted to get out of bed and do things – I couldn’t. Partly because I didn’t have the energy and partly because my arms and legs were so weak and numb I could hardly even use them. The beginning of an MS diagnosis is the hardest because you know very little about the disease. I mean, we can google the shit out of it and read as many articles as possible but we have no experience with it personally. MS is a faceless monster – we don’t know what it’s capable of doing, how present it will be in your life and we don’t really know what to do about it.
The beginning is the hardest because it is so easy to give in to depression. That’s where I felt I was heading. As a teenager I battled with depression and anxiety – but as a young adult I felt I definitely beat my depression. At least until this. I fell back into that pattern of just feeling the lowest of lows. One day I said to my partner that I’d rather be dead than deal with this for the rest of my life – and the scariest part was that I meant it. I honestly felt like my life was no longer worth living and no one should ever feel like that. I knew I had to turn this around before it got any worse. As the depression started to settle in and make itself at home, I felt worse every day. While MS was something I couldn’t control, I knew I’d beat depression before and I could do it again. So I did. I told myself every day that I could do this and eventually I believed it. If I start this new chapter of my life with the dark shadow of depression hanging over me, it would make everything so much harder.
What my body is going through is hard enough without my mind being poisoned by toxic thoughts. The least I could do for my body is make sure that my mind was healthy. Mind and body have to work as a team – if one member of the team is vulnerable, the other must step up and help. That’s why I’ve made the decision to make sure that my mind remains healthy and keeps the team going. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. I stopped thinking ‘my life is over’ and started welcoming the idea of my life heading on a new path. Am I scared of what this new path holds for my future? Hell yes – I’m shitting myself. But I am also excited. I am excited to spend some time working on becoming the best version of myself I can be. I am excited to follow passions that I gave up on because of my studies that I suddenly now have time for – like writing! I am excited for a new adventure where I have no idea where I’ll be in five or 10 years’ time. It’s exciting and new and I need to focus on that instead of focussing on my fear of the unknown.
Some of the mantras I’ve been drumming into my head are things I’ve always believed but have never been more important to me than right now.
– Everything happens for a reason
– The universe only gives you what you can handle
– With struggle comes strength
I have always applied these things to get me through anything in life – why should my diagnosis be any different? In fact, I believe that without these three mantras I wouldn’t have been able to pull myself out of the depression that I was falling into. It’s amazing how our minds work; if we keep telling ourselves something we will eventually believe it. At the end of the day, we choose what to feed our brains; whether that be positivity or negativity – it’s up to us. The easier thing for me to do is to allow negativity to take over but what good will that do?
I am going into this diagnosis with my mind as healthy as it can be. If the beginning is the hardest part and I’m still smiling – I think know I’m going to be okay.