Thursday May 05 2016 11:00 AM
This week, Joan tells us how she has become stronger than MS'
'Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.' - Mike Tyson. The first time MS struck- it was a no contest total wipe-out. I hit the canvas like a sack of spuds. It took me a long time to pick myself up and get back on my feet. Even so, I was petrified of another attack ambushing me and taking more than it did the last time.
So, I lived in the shadows for a few years. I had little support and was in constant fear. I couldn’t even say the words Multiple Sclerosis. It’s a bit like being bullied. When my kids were younger, the best advice if they were being intimidated by another child was to tell a grown up and go play with someone else. Now they are reminded that it's not their fault, praised for speaking up, reassured that we will figure out what to do about it together, told to confront the bully and to go play with someone else. Tormentors don’t like being challenged. The logic is that the bully doesn’t want the hassle and moves onto pastures new.
So, I decided to practice what I was preaching to my own children. I started building up an arsenal to stand up to MS. The first thing was to believe (REALLY believe) that it’s not my fault that I got this awful disease. Then I had to say 'I’m not scared' to the bully. I made myself promise to not give another ounce of worry over to what might happen and focus on what I can do to avoid another attack. I wanted to make my life good again. Straight away, a cloud lifted!
Instead of wasting time worrying, I joined my local support group. There is never a dull moment in the MS Ireland Louth Voluntary Branch and I find that you get more than you give there. I have made lifelong friends and urge you to give it a go, if you haven’t already. Even having one other person who 'get’s you' helps immensely.
My diet and lifestyle have much improved since I stood up to MS. I don’t binge drink or comfort eat nearly as much as when I was going through my dark days. I attend an excellent yoga class on a Tuesday morning. When I started, my cat posture was just that- cat! After a while, I have gotten the hang of it and my balance has really improved. I also find breathing exercises really helpful in stressful situations.
I am very conscious that I don’t make myself out to be some kind of saint here. I’m not and that kind of talk helps nobody. Right now, there is a ceasefire between MS and me but my old scars still smart. I still find myself thinking about what might have been if I hadn’t gotten ill. I just got so fed up of MS controlling my happiness that I stood up to the bully and found some new friends to play with.
Back to the boxing clichés! MS hits us 'below the belt'. I have decided that I am not going to 'throw in the towel' because life can still be REALLY good. Together- we can be Stronger than MS.