Have you ever heard of a person forgiving a murderer for a crime they committed against their loved one? It seems incomprehensible that someone could forgive a perpetrator for such an act, but it can be a core part of the grieving process for the loved ones left behind. Forgiveness can be a huge help in moving on.
A similar approach can be used when coming to terms with the development of a chronic illness. For me, forgiveness has played a big role in dealing with my MS diagnosis. I made a conscious decision to forgive myself and others, which in turn has helped me to accept my new reality and find ways to live with it. Of course, this is a daily challenge, and something I continue to work on, but below are a few tips I’ve learned that might help you too.
Stop the blame game
Just a couple of months before MS became a part of my reality, I was in contact with somebody that carried a virus linked to triggering the illness. This is something I was unaware of at the time. After reading about why I might have MS, I suspect that I was already susceptible to getting the illness without even knowing it, this contact might well have been the final straw.
It would have been easy for me to blame this person for what has happened since, but blaming them would have been no use to anyone, least of all me. Firstly, I will never know whether this really was the trigger. Secondly, it won’t make me healthy again to lay blame, so I have decided not to dwell on the matter and accept the fact that becoming ill with MS was how my life was destined to be.
I’ve had to learn to forgive myself too. Before MS I was in good health, but it would be very easy to obsess over all the things I did that might have contributed to my getting ill. For example, my diet wasn’t great and my stress levels often too high. I didn’t look after myself as much as I do now, and like most ‘healthy people I, simply didn’t recognise how important managing stress was to my overall health.
I’ve had to learn to let go of this. What’s done is done. I can’t blame myself, my genes, my body, my circumstances, or other people for the role they might have played in my illness. It is, quite simply, bad for my health now to do so.
Save your energy
I have wasted so much energy looking for answers as to why this happened to me. Answers I will never find. There are many different reasons why people develop MS in their lifetime but trying to pinpoint which one thing triggered mine was exhausting and ultimately futile. Research into what causes this illness still isn’t conclusive enough. While I keep myself up to date on developments, I have stopped seeking comfort in regular, late-night Google searches for answers. Today, I look to reliable information portals and keep informed with the facts.
Work with your body, not against it
Fighting against a condition is a constant battle and incredibly exhausting. I’ve stopped the fight and finally started to work with my body. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying to improve, I just do things differently now.
For me, this has been the most challenging aspect, but I have learnt to be patient, celebrating the small wins, and accepting that progress happens much more slowly than it used to. Exercise is especially difficult, but I’m learning to stick to a routine that I can manage and to increase the intensity slowly. Progress is progress, regardless of the pace.
As we know, stress can have a significant impact on our bodies, so I’m learning to read the subtlest signs and actively choose to wind down. Instead of ploughing on and forcing my body to comply, I consciously decide to work with it to get the same result in my own time.
Make peace with your body. You can’t go back and change what happened in the past, so don’t waste your energy focusing on that. Forgive yourself and your body for what has happened, and work within your new limits, allowing yourself to rest whenever needed. You’ll still make the progress you want, it will just take longer than it used to and require a little more patience to get there. Forgiveness is just the first step. You also need to recognise how far you’ve come and how strong you are. Be proud of yourself and move forward, leaving the blame behind.
NPS-IE-NP-00152 February 2020