Hello, my name is Caroline Brennan and I was diagnosed with MS in May 2014. I experienced prolonged symptoms both before and after my diagnosis and got no relief from disease modifying drugs- just a selection of side-effects.
As crazy as this may sound, I now count my diagnosis as one of the greatest blessings in my life. MS made me dig deep within for life skills that I otherwise may have never acquired. I have been forced to take a thorough inventory of my life and MS has been my toughest but greatest teacher. It has taught me a deep sense of appreciation for both my mind and body and all of the miraculous things that these aspects of me can do.
I have chosen to focus my attention on the things I can do and this has served me very well. I treat my body with respect, as if it is an irreplaceable machine and I fuel it with organic, wholesome, nutritious foods. I protect it from chemicals, additives and preservatives and in turn it responds positively. I give it rest when it signals to me that it has had enough and I cool it down at the first sign of overheating. In short, I have learned to listen, deeply, to my body. When I walk I am focused on walking. I am appreciating every successful step I take. When I shower I am focused on showering, appreciating the flow of the water. When I eat, I am focused on tasting, chewing, swallowing. The old me was too busy thinking about the next task to notice the details of these daily rituals and so deeply entrenched in mental chatter that I was totally unaware as to what I was actually doing in the present moment.
But that is only a small part of my journey thus far. I have also learned the importance of being very selective in relation to the story I tell about myself. I am me first and foremost. I am not the sum total of my experiences and I am not my MS. It is not the most defining thing about me. I start every day reciting a list of positive affirmations silently to myself. This practise sustains me so well that I would not even entertain beginning my day without reminding myself of all the good things that are housed within myself. Try it! What works for me is: “I am kind, I am loving, I am content, I am hopeful, I am blessed, I am supported, I am looking forward, I am doing my best and I am inspired.” These are just some of my favourites. It doesn’t really matter what the mantra is - the principle behind the concept is that the words “I am” are incredibly powerful. Starting my day in this way uplifts my mood and sets the tone for the day ahead. There are lots of other tips and tricks I have learned along my MS path. Its’ been quite the journey so far and (here’s another affirmation for you…) I am only getting started!
PS. I am mother to a five-year-old boy, I am a wife, I am a daughter and I am a practising lawyer. I am also skydiving in support of MS Ireland on 15th July!