A few weeks ago I watched one of those corny movies on TV. It was about a married woman who always tried to follow the expectations from her father and tried to be a ‘good girl’. Then something happened. She found out that her husband was having an affair with another woman and she made the decision to get a divorce. Her father was disappointed, because he just wanted the best for ‘his girl’.
After a big discussion, the mother, a silent and very wise woman, said to him “Don’t be angry and don’t force your expectations onto her. She is fine the way she is.”
This really struck a chord. The simple sentence: You are fine the way you are, is something that we should say to ourselves more often. Love yourself and who you are.
When I began my journey with MS, I didn’t love myself or my body. This made living with the condition worse. The less I loved myself and my body, the more negative emotions and physical symptoms I noticed.
I visited a psychologist and we started to work on my inner relationship with myself. It was a learning process and so worth doing. Today I can say: although I’m not in the best shape, I am fine with the way I am. And it feels great.
MS doesn’t define you
Of course it isn’t always easy. You never know what happens next with MS. But with accepting myself, I was able to stop struggling and living in doubt. I have learned to take care of myself and to love me.
“This is not selfish, this is healthy” my psychologist would say.
All the things I do, like to going to physiotherapy, meditating, eating healthily and looking at my personal MS needs, helps me to live mindfully and gets me through the bad times a little more easily.
I feel that when the MS diagnosis happens, we tend to forget ourselves. It feels like there’s this big, scary ‘multiple sclerosis elephant’ in the room and not much else. But we are much more than just MS. And this is one of the most important lessons I have learned.
Living with MS can mean that you have to rethink things and find new ways to move forward. But it doesn’t mean that we are no longer ‘okay’ or ‘enough’ for this world. Or even that we are not beautiful anymore.
Love your body
MS can have a huge impact on our mental, and of course, physical wellbeing. Sometimes we are limited physically because of MS. Some of us start to hate our body because it loses shape or doesn’t feel beautiful anymore. We forget that our body is okay the way it is.
Of course, we sometimes complain and that’s okay - it’s our right to complain from time-to-time. After all most of us have had to resign from a lot of the things that we were doing before our diagnosis. Honestly, I’m frustrated about all the things I’ve had to give up on too, but then I remember this sentence again:
You are fine the way you are.
To continue this thinking, I focus on what my psychologist taught me years ago: “You are a valuable and beautiful person with a lot of experience, knowledge and talent. You have great personality. You are a beautiful human being and the world can be proud that you are here. You should go your own way and do your own thing.”
Of course, sometimes I don’t like the wrinkles on my face or the other visible signs of life on my body, but I am getting older. I do a lot for my body: regular sport lessons, I eat good and healthy food (although sometimes I need chocolate, fries, pizza or a burger), I live consciously and mindfully, and I take care of myself.
Ultimately I have learned to love my body despite the visible signs of MS and age.
The positive effect was people starting to see me as me ‘Birgit’, not ‘the person with MS’. They became my friends and they’re interested in me, not my condition.
For me it was important to write this very personal story down and to tell it to you. I know a lot of people living with chronic conditions have doubts of themselves and their body-image. There are bad times, and I know how hard it can be, but there are good times too. And you’ll have more of the good times if you accept yourself.
Love yourself, and your body. You deserve it.
UK/MED/19/0154 July 2019