I Thought I Had Lost My Smile


By Penelope Conway

Added stress for a person with multiple sclerosis is not ideal. Life is already challenging enough, but the added stress makes everything a gazillion times worse. Anxiety easily sets in. You get less sleep, more headaches, your appetite can be either non-existent or you want to eat everything in your cupboard, everybody gets on your nerves with stupid things like just saying hi to you in the morning, weakness increases, you notice the ringing in your ears more, and pain is through the roof. All the little symptoms you used to just accept are now front and center before you and driving you mad.

How do you calm an out of control body, brain and mind? Well, I have to tell you that’s the hard part. It’s like asking how to control a raging bull in a china shop. Can it even be done? Is there a magic pill that works? Is there a meditation technique that helps?  What works?

I know for me I have to go back to my tried and true way of journalling and evaluating life. Where I write down all that is on my mind, all that is happening in my life, and empty my heart of all the frustrations that keep popping up. It helps.

Journalling helps me to get a bigger picture of what’s really happening in my life and gives me a targeted goal to reach for. When everything is scattered around me, chaos has full reign, but when I can focus on one thing at a time I am calmer and happier.

Just this past week I was overwhelmed with people not doing the job for me that they had promised to do. All I could see was mistakes, errors and continued problems. I saw wasted money, wasted time and problems that I didn’t know how to fix.

I vented my problems with the written word on my laptop and paused. I have to pause because it’s not that easy for me to type. I hunt and peck. As I was pausing… hunting and pecking… I had to remind myself to breathe. In and out, in and out, in and out. I lay in my bed for about an hour and put on some soothing music. It wasn’t long and I was tapping my hand to the beat. I can no longer try to sing along so tapping along was the best I could do.

I found myself smiling again. My smile wasn’t misplaced, it was just hiding and making my life miserable. I called my best friend and we had a good discussion which dried up any remaining tears I had. I feel truly blessed with the people in my life. They may be few but they are amazing.

I love that people will give me things to think about and different perspectives to consider. Sometimes it’s just a little shift in perspective that brings in fresh air and the sun shines brighter.

I didn’t have to do anything earth shattering. I just had to step back from life and make sure I am doing the best that I can with what I have. I’m on a new path today and enjoying the journey. Tears are gone, my followers online have been a big support, and I’m still smiling. I want to give a big shout out to the online MS communities everywhere. You make a difference. You matter.

*Penelope Conway was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2011. She is the author and founder of Positive Living with MS (positivelivingwithms.com) where she uses humor and her own life experiences with MS to help others navigate this unpredictable journey. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day.

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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