Let’s be frank


“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
(Charles Swindoll)

If you’re running behind on making a few new year’s resolutions, or perhaps call them ‘new year’s illusions’ by now instead, all is not lost. There are small things you can work on every day of the year.

Given its absurd sense of unpredictability, life with MS is challenging at the best of times. Anything turbulent added to it, and it soon becomes a slalom course with so many twists and turns that each one seems icier than the ones before.

Last year was such a year. It seemed as if my track record of being able to get along with just about everyone was tested, and tested some more. Never mind the counselling diploma with merit shining brightly on my walls – its merit devalued by my early retirement. Psychotherapist on paper but not in practice, the diploma is now there for motivational reasons only.

I tried to keep going no matter what, and eventually, the biggest lesson was such common sense I, in fact, never even remembered it when I needed it most. That lesson was that everyone’s entitled to their opinion of me, but their view is not necessarily an accurate description of who or what I truly am.

It boiled down to this; some people have an inherent ability to drain your energy levels by almost obsessively rambling on and on about trivial things. Perhaps too kind to break up the chat, I continued being committed to those conversations for too long. MS fatigue soon kicked in, and stress appeared as I tried to stay awake.

But… Anyone with MS though knows that stress is a no-go zone if you want to stay relatively stable.

It wasn’t a stress-free year, far from it. MS hammered the weakest part of my body first, with pain shooting in, on top and below my eyes as well as behind my eyes. Added to it was trigeminal neuralgia. When you add TN and eye problems to severe fatigue and general left-side neuropathic pain, you know I belong in one place only, my bed.

The saddest thing of all was that I had the option to exit these things at any stage because my symptoms prevented me from writing (or anything else for that matter) as I felt too tired. You can compare it to a massive case of brain freeze times ten, mixed with legs that won’t move anymore.

What it also did, though, was take some of the sensation I had in my right hand. I was unable to hold a pen and write the old way. But, like someone told me just yesterday, this year has to be my “Excuse me, but no can do…” year in which I will stop energy-sapping people taking whatever energy I have left in me.

So, if you want a reminder of what new year’s resolutions are usually all about, here’s a few that can perhaps kick-start your year in a positive way.

Be the best version of yourself you can be

Life is not a dress rehearsal. Do what you love now. Start that crazy hobby you always wanted to try out now. Travel now. Get out more now. Do something about that lack of participation, lack of effort, and perhaps un(der)employment. Why choose to do or be less than your best?

In the end, when death comes knocking on your front door, make sure that you can say, “No regrets!” instead of lamenting the things you had the opportunity to do, but didn’t.

You only get one chance at life, and this is it. The future depends on you.



Like many others, we tend to look back at negative circumstances in our life in a self-censored way, in a way that suits us, and that makes us feel comfortable. Because of this, we self-sabotage our future because our past is still very much in our present.

Each time a bad habit, unhealthy relationship, negative thought or a false belief enters your mind, use it as an opportunity to let go of its negativity. In my view, each new day is a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which I write a new me, define my worth and think, “Ha, Miss Piggy is awake, beware of the slapstick handbag!”

The relationship you have with yourself will be the most important one in your life, so be honest, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Embrace fear

Last year I met absolutely incredible people. One of them I now consider a good friend. Despite her Down Syndrome, her wisdom is greater than that of many people her age and indeed older. During one of our chats, we talked about ‘getting over the fear of having fear,’ something which made me look back at when I was trying to let go of something similar.

Nobody likes feeling paralyzed by terror, that much we know. Phobophobia is fear of phobias, a fear of the feelings linked to the fear and anxiety. If you live with phobophobia or any other kind of dread, the problems start when you neglect that fear, or when you neglect yourself in other ways.

Why? The main menace is quite often doing nothing to combat this fear. It’s worth remembering that you are not perfect, and nor do you need to be. Make sure though that when it counts, you stand up and say, “No more excuses or laziness, I am proactive, and I take full ownership of my present and therefore, my future.”

The blame game

Too many times we like to blame others for our problems. Situations and people create our experiences, but these situations and people don’t create you. Understanding our past helps us to distinguish why we hold on and repeat self-destructive behaviours.

When we feel anger, resentment and other non-positive emotions, the only one we annoy is ourselves. So, choose taking ownership over blaming others, happiness over negativity, choosing a new way of life over just remaining in a rut.

Cards on the table

Our story needs to be put into perspective on every page of the book of our life. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we are a work in progress, some more than others, but still, work in progress. We all need to work on our minds, and we need to let go as much as we are taking in. Expectations, ideas and assumptions are no good to you, so let go of them. Some are mere delusions in what you consider ‘your truth’; only, they are holding you back. We can’t do anything with them because we attribute ourselves higher ranks and demeanours than we’re worth.

So yes, perspective is needed.

Life is a calculated risk

Focus on what is working in your life, not on what isn’t. That means taking risks. That also means learning from your experiences and knowing that in life we always have a choice.

When I retired from work, I was 36 years old. Too young to sit at home watching the grass grow, too young to have laziness as a very lousy diagnosis. On the other hand, I was full of ideas on how to spend my time wisely, how to spend it in gratitude and service of others. I knew that life would get better one day, but I also felt it already was a good day.

Sharing that optimism is a raison d’être. I hadn’t done everything I wanted to do when I retired, but such is life. You take risks because you want to see great rewards, so you win some and lose some.

Nobody said the life would be easy, but it is worth it.

If you want some more of all this, visit these websites

The don’ts of a happy life

60 ways to make life simple again

10 ways to change your life at any age

“Rekindle the glowing spirit for success in your heart.
Refresh your mind with possibility thoughts and never give way for
your passion to drink from the cup of tiredness.
Be renewed in your thoughts every single day.”
(Israelmore Ayivor, Shaping the dream)

©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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