Fresh Starts: Changing Self-Talk to Serve Me Better

By Stacie Prada

Sometimes we want to make changes, and sometimes we need to make changes.  We choose some, and some are thrust upon us. It doesn’t always mean we’re ready or able to make them. Making a fresh start can be exciting and intimidating.

I’m a big fan of trying to make these changes easier.  Like the placebo effect can help us feel better when we take sugar pills thinking they’re medication, I’m all for using how our brains work to – for lack of a better word – trick myself into doing things I want to do.

How we think, our opinions of ourselves, and the language we use can limit us and our personal growth.  I’m considering Continue reading

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Changing Family Traditions for the Better

By Stacie Prada

I love family traditions. They’re unique to each family, and they bond us to each other. Sometimes it isn’t until we’re older that we realize there are other ways to celebrate. It’s also not until we talk to each other that we realize traditions we love may not be universally liked.

Throughout my youth, Santa always included an orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking. As an adult, I feel like Continue reading

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After the Stress: The Arc of Relief Takes Time

By Stacie Prada

In wellness circles, we focus a lot on trying to reduce, offset, and avoid stress. It sometimes seems like feeling anxious or overwhelmed is perceived as a deficiency in our ability to handle life. I’ve come to believe that certain life chapters and physical conditions are inherently stressful and completely outside the limits of what any well-adjusted, positive and active person can live through without physical consequence.

I once heard that Continue reading

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Repeatedly Accepting My Health Condition: It’s Not One and Done

By Stacie Prada

Living with multiple sclerosis, I find I repeatedly need to accept my diagnosis and reality. I have moments where I feel great and totally at ease with my health, life and possible future decline. Other times I have symptoms ramp up, and frustration and fear can leave me rattled.

I’ve been living with my diagnosis ten years, have likely had MS at least another 15, and Continue reading

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Life Goals: Checking in When the Seasons Change

By Stacie Prada

When summer turns to fall, a sense of routine and normalcy seems to return to my life. Kids are back in school, my coworkers and I are done with big vacations, and we’re all ready to get back to work. This year it occurred to me to start reflecting on this year and planning for next year earlier than usual. I think this might be Continue reading

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Remembering I’m the Boss for My Health Care Professional Team

By Stacie Prada

When I think of all the health care professionals I’ve seen in the last thirty years, it overwhelms me.  When I look at how I interact with them and how it’s changed with time, I think changes in my confidence level and perspective have contributed to much better interactions and level of care.

Thinking of the number of health care providers I’ve seen since reaching adulthood Continue reading

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Laughter Is Essential When Living with a Chronic Illness

By Stacie Prada

Sometimes feeling crummy and being overwhelmed makes a person forget to do things that didn’t take any thought when they felt well.  It’s natural to focus on what’s wrong and stop thinking things are funny. It’s easy to let the hard things override any impulse to be lighthearted.

I haven’t really found a way to laugh at my MS symptoms.  They’re inconvenient and sometimes debilitating, they’re an indicator of how much damage my MS has done, and they’re scary for the damage that may be yet to come. Continue reading

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Making Travel Possible and a Priority When MS Symptoms Make it Hard

By Stacie Prada

In 2014, I visited France for the first time.  I went to Sainte-Chapelle at the recommendation of a neighbor who raved I needed to go when I visited Paris.  It was incredible. The gothic architecture of the building relies on a web of supporting arcs that creates a pattern like no other I’d seen before in real life.  It was awe-inspiring. I’d been told the main floor was beautiful and the upper floor exponentially more incredible.

At the time I recall there was construction and signage indicating only one way to access the upper floor.  As I climbed the tightly curved, narrow and steep stairway, I experienced a visceral moment that had me choking back a sudden sob. My thoughts flashed to friends with mobility issues that would not be able to navigate this route. I realized that this is something that someday I will not be able to experience. In that moment I felt profound grief for what I haven’t yet lost – the ability and freedom to go anywhere without my body limiting me.  Continue reading

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Beyond Doctor’s Orders: Considering Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Healing

By Stacie Prada

Living with an illness with no proven cure leads me to treat myself as a guinea pig.  I read about the latest studies and breakthroughs for MS and auto-immune diseases. I seek recommendations from people that are managing their health well.  I compare what I’m doing to the treatment and see if it makes sense for me. If the risk is low and I’m not doing it already, I’ll give it a shot.  It’s a very unscientific approach. But given I’m bumping up against an unknown date when my MS could progress, I’m not willing to wait until all the studies are in when it could be too late for me. Continue reading

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Creating the Support Network I Want

By Stacie Prada

Living with a chronic and progressive illness like MS includes living with fear, pain and diminishing abilities. It’s rough.  It can make me grouchy and impatient. But it’s not a pass to treat people poorly. It takes more effort to be appreciative and pleasant when I’m tired and feel crummy, but it’s a tremendous life skill to cultivate.   Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fall short of my goal.  When that happens, I follow up with that person and try to repair any damage.

I’d rather people support me because they want to be there with me.  If someone is helping me solely out of obligation or pity, their resentment or condescension will come through in every interaction.  No thank you.

Feeling like a burden isn’t helpful to anyone’s physical or mental wellbeing.  And being treated like a burden isn’t fair.  Every person has challenges and limits, and we all have needs. Needs aren’t weaknesses. Some of our needs are just more visible or less common compared to what’s thought of as normal.

My best relationships are those of mutual admiration and appreciation.  We help each other often, but we make sure we respect our limits so that nothing is done with resentment.

I’ve put together some guidelines for myself to build healthy and positive relationships:

  1. When people show kindness or concern, accept it graciously. If I discourage it because I’m embarrassed, grouchy or feeling like they’re being pushy, they’ll eventually stop asking or providing support.
  2. Notice when I feel better about myself after interacting with someone. Put extra effort into connecting with them.
  3. Notice when I feel worse after interacting with someone. Consider possible reasons, and be honest about whether it’s me or them. See if there are ways to improve the relationship.  Let it go if it’s not a critical relationship. Pursue sincere conversation or counseling for the relationships I’m not willing to let go.
  4. Know that letting go of some relationships will be necessary for my health. This is really tough. Try to wish them well and move on.
  5. Be a cheerleader for others. Share in their joys and accomplishments genuinely and without jealousy, and express sympathy and encouragement when they’re having a hard time.
  6. Be willing to accept help. I’d love to be completely self-sufficient and strong, but refusing help pushes people away. Remember accepting help might make them feel better too.
  7. Grant people grace when they periodically commit a friendship blunder. Hope they’ll do the same for me. People will never respond perfectly in every situation, and anyone expecting perfection is being unreasonable.

Striving to follow these guidelines has improved my relationships immensely, and it’s created a positive support network that I can count on when I need it. We support each other and don’t keep score. Having them around makes every challenge easier to tackle and every loss more tolerable to accept.  Plus, the effort I put into adding positive energy in the world helps me feel I have value and just plain feels good.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/ 

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