By Penelope Conway
I woke up in tears yesterday. No reason. Nothing bad happened to me in the middle of the night. I didn’t wake up from a nightmare, my goldfish didn’t die and I wasn’t in a lot of unbearable pain. My emotions just went haywire all on their own. I hate when that happens. I take meds to help keep my emotions stabilized, but yesterday’s dose must have been a dud.
Multiple sclerosis has this way of messing with a person’s emotions. Sometimes there’s a valid reason for the crazy mood swings we experience. Things like the fact that we are dealing with daily challenges and changes in life that sometimes become overwhelming and difficult to handle.
But there are actual times when our emotions get all out of whack for no reason other than the fact that the wiring in our brain is short circuiting and playing around with our emotions. That really does happen. MS messes with my ability to walk, think, talk, see, and sometimes it seems to get bored doing all of that and decides to get its grubby little hands on how I feel too. It seems nothing is off limits to this monster.
When the nurse got to my house for her normal visit, I was sobbing into a sock. (Don’t judge. I didn’t have any tissue nearby so I used what I had. Besides, surprisingly enough socks actually work pretty good as tissues.) Just having her with me helped to calm my tears.
Sometimes someone assuring you that things are going to be okay really does help. Sometimes all we need is a hug, a kind word, a gentle touch, or a hand to hold. Although those things don’t change what’s happening in our life or restructure our brains, they comfort the heart.
I won’t lie to you, life with MS can be tough at times. I go through periods when I simply want to get away from it all… no distractions, no phone calls, no text messages, no people, no MS (now, that one I can’t seem to get away from), no anything. It’s at those times when I will curl up in my comfy overstuffed chair, turn my phone off and do absolutely nothing.
I know it seems impossible to be able to do nothing because even doing nothing is doing something, but somehow I manage to do it. Wait a minute, maybe I really am doing something when I think I’m doing nothing but since my brain scatters my thoughts I forget the something I was supposed to be doing which turns it into nothing. Now there’s a thought to ponder.
When I take the time to get away from the mess that is overtaking my life into a place of solitude, I come back better focused and my emotions calm down. Sometimes it’s takes just 5 minutes of being away to regroup my thoughts. Other times it’s more like 30 minutes, an hour or even a day. But that pause does something magical and helps me to tackle even the hardest of tasks.
I can remember the times when my workload would become intense at my job. The pressure, the stress… it would become overwhelming. When that happened, I would walk away from my desk and lock myself in a bathroom stall down the hall to just pause and breathe. That was the only place I knew I could truly be alone and get away from everyone and everything. Somehow time stood still for me in the bathroom.
I know that sounds weird to some people, but short breaks like that really help. We all need a place where we can get away from the craziness in life and be able to focus on things other than MS, medical bills and the to-do list that never seems to get done. Don’t feel guilty stepping away to take a pause. Take the time you need even if that means telling someone “no.”
If I could reach through the screen to you, I’d hold your hand and remind you of how truly amazing you are. I’d listen to you talk about your struggles, your challenges, your fears, and remind you that no matter what you’re facing, you are strong enough… much stronger than you give yourself credit for. I’d cry with you, make you giggle and let you have my last cookie. (You know you’re special if I share my cookies with you.)
If today is a “cry in your oatmeal” kind of day…go ahead and cry. It’s okay to do that. Let it all out. Then dry your tears and remind yourself that you are a champion, a winner, a warrior. You may not feel like one, but you are and all warriors need a break. Sometimes just a little pause makes a world of difference.
Don’t stop trying to be the best you can be regardless of MS or whatever else you may be facing. You are going to get through this.
*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.