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Practicing Gratitude: Being Thankful Despite MS

Reading time | 4 mins

Gratitude and living with multiple sclerosis are two topics that don’t necessarily come up in the same sentence too often.

Let’s be honest: There are countless things MS has the power to take away from people who are living with it: from relationships with close friends and the ability to walk, to a once-committed spouse and a career that felt like an identity and a way of life.

MS can be merciless. We know that firsthand because all of those things mentioned above actually happened to us as a direct or indirect result of this chronic disease we have collectively lived with for an average of 20 years. Each experience pushed us to our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual limits. We’ve both shed countless tears trying to understand what we did to deserve such a wicked and unpredictable penance.

The reality is we didn’t do anything to usher MS into our lives, but it is part of our lives whether we like it or not. Over the years we realized that we have a choice: Let MS be the one thing, like an uninvited guest, that ruins the party that is our life, or choose to focus on everything that that makes our life worthy of celebrating.

Be grateful and party on, friends.

Sure, we still get angry sometimes. We still get frustrated. We still get sad. But each day we live with MS, we find strength in all of the things we have to be grateful for.

There is even research that shows the positive impact of thankfulness and gratitude. An article from Harvard Medical School states that, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Here’s how gratitude has helped us — and may help you — to stay positive and continue fighting for our best lives with MS.

Embrace the here and now

Jennifer lost the ability to walk more than 16 years ago, but what overpowers her longing for what she once had is an appreciation for her ability to still stand with assistance. Standing enables Jennifer to make safe transfers in and out of her power wheelchair to use the restroom or get into bed. It also briefly relieves the pressure that comes with sitting most of the day. #SheIsStillStanding

Accepting — and appreciating — where you’re at

MS is a progressive disease, and we have seen in our community just how quickly health conditions can change. Even after 20 years of living with MS, Dan makes it a point not to complain about the way MS has impacted his abilities. Why? Because he knows that tomorrow always could be worse, and he never wants to look back on yesterday and wonder what the heck he was complaining about. #ThankfulForToday

Perspective is everything

There are certain things Jennifer struggles to do without help, such as feeding herself. MS-induced weakness in her right hand and arm makes it difficult to lift an eating utensil to her mouth, which has become more of a challenge. Rather than focusing on the frustration of asking for help to finish the last few bites, she chooses to celebrate the majority of the meal that she ate without assistance. #LookOnTheBrightSide

Let go of the lost, be gracious for the found

As life goes on, it changes, whether or not you have MS. We do get sad when we lose things, like relationships with friends who can’t handle our new realities. The key is to not get stuck in your sadness, because it will distract you from finding something better for you at this point in your life. Case in point: Had Dan not moved beyond a failed first marriage, he never would have found Jennifer. #KeepMovingForward

Revel in the research

When we first were diagnosed with MS two decades ago, there were only three disease-modifying therapies — all injectable — to slow its progression. Today there are nearly 15 different options, in a variety of routes and forms, and there is research and movement underway to help to repair MS damage and restore function. These developments give us hope and show there are researchers who are looking to improve the lives of those of us living with MS. #ACureIsCloser

Sing praises for the support

We were both a bit hesitant to ask for and receive help from others when we first were diagnosed — even simple things, like a friend calling to ask how we were doing, a neighbour offering to mow our lawn, or a parent offering to help clean the house made us feel like a burden. That quickly changed when someone pointed out to us that we would do the same types of things to help others in need. Being open to receiving this kind of support is a win-win situation. It helps us to better manage certain aspects of day-to-day life, and it helps others feel better about making a difference. #CountYourBlessings

UK/MED/18/0351 January 2019