When Birgit Bauer was diagnosed with MS, she fell out of love with herself and her body. However, Birgit focuses on the positives nowadays and has a different outlook on body image.
I watched one of those corny movies on TV a few weeks ago. It was about a married woman who always tried to follow her father's expectations and be a ‘good girl’. Then something happened. She found out that her husband was having an affair with another woman, and she decided to get a divorce. Her father was disappointed because he wanted the best for his daughter.
After a big discussion, the mostly silent and wise mother told 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 we should say to ourselves more often. Love yourself and who you are.
When I began my journey with multiple sclerosis (MS), I didn’t love myself or my body. This made it even worse to have the condition. 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 okay with how 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. However, once I stopped struggling and living in doubt, I learned to care for, love, and accept myself.
“This is not selfish; this is healthy”, my psychologist would say.
Everything I do - like going to physiotherapy, meditating, eating healthily and looking after my MS needs - helps me live mindfully and gets me through the bad times.
I think that when the MS diagnosis happens, we tend to forget ourselves. It feels like this big, scary ‘multiple sclerosis elephant’ is in the room and not much else. But we are much more than just MS; this is one of the most important lessons I have learned.
Living with MS can mean you must rethink things and find new ways to move forward. That said, neither of those things mean 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 massive impact on our mental and, of course, physical well-being. 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 occasionally. After all, most of us have had to resign from many of the things 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 a great personality, and the world can be proud 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. I take regular sports lessons, eat good and healthy food (although sometimes I need chocolate, fries, pizza or a burger), live consciously and mindfully, and take care of myself.
Ultimately, I have learned to love my body despite the visible signs of MS and age.
The positive effect was that people finally started to see me as ‘Birgit’, not ‘the person with MS’. They became my friends - and they’re interested in me, not my condition.
For me, it was essential to write this very personal story down and tell it to you. I know many people living with chronic conditions have doubts about 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 good times if you accept yourself.
Love yourself and your body. You deserve it.
NPS-IE-NP-00702 March 2023