What do you do when faced with a 5-minute life-changing situation that will alter the rest of your life?
Do you run?
Do you freak out?
Or, do you just get on with life and let the future reveal itself as time goes on?
I have been through my fair share of life-changing events. In fact, a few too many in too short a time. But, as the adage goes, life goes on.
You keep going with the flow as best as you can. What else is there to do, otherwise? You already know you are not the only one who is faced with major shakeups.
Now, I am not one to revise and over-analyse.
My ‘fight or flight’ survival plan had been active on many occasions before, and as such had become stuck on the ‘fight’ modus operandi.
Fourteen years ago, a little voice turned into an awful gut feeling which told me that something was about to change.
I met someone around the time of the genesis of my MS, yet I knew he was not what I was looking for. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to give in to that little voice. Three months I kept pretending it wasn’t gaining any speed.
When I eventually acknowledged its existence and addressed its needs, my intuition had been on the ball because this was one relationship I wouldn’t be able to sustain. When it ended, there were no tears and no regrets. It felt as if the weight of the world had fallen off my shoulders.
As bad as it sounds, I felt good because I began to grasp that my gut instinct seemed more intelligent than I was. This was not the first time it had tried to outsmart me, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Up till then, ending the relationship had been the wisest decision I could have made. I had just started the second year of a part-time degree in psychology and would be stretched for time as it was. Being mad about anything related to the human mind and the many mental and emotional wonders it produced, I also yearned to find out where intuition originated and how it developed.
Did I deliberately let go or did that little something instinctual from within trick me? After all, it seemed as if it had done all the challenging work for me. I just sort of tagged along for the ride and reaped its benefits upon arrival.
Around the same time, a neurologist told me “You. MS. Forever. No Cure. Deal with it.”
What I had feared was ultimately proven right.
Deep inside, I instinctively knew that what I was going through was not normal. The power of intuition a helpful tool, while at times it is an unhelpful reminder I don’t want to acknowledge until it is too late. Sometimes there is no rationale for intuition.
What followed was a battle inside my brain. Not believing the diagnosis. Laughing it away and behaving as if I was still as fit as a fiddle. Something had to give, and it did. Our unconscious mind governs our behaviour to a greater degree than one might realise, yet I seemed selectively mute to my own maturity.
To this day, 13 years post-diagnosis, I am still prone to having conscious/unconscious battles. I am past the “woe is me” period that tried to knock me sideways at first, but I still have pacing issues that lay bare any ineffectiveness I attribute to myself. We all want the opportunity to stay active human beings. Not wanting to this is foreign to my character and it quite possibly will be for as long as I live. Still studying is just one part of that action plan.
As time goes on and I realise how much I have learned -not just about MS but also about people, what drives them and what truly motivates me- I feel hopeful that the next few years will harness these insights even further, even if MS rears its head every so often.
I’ve made big decisions about my illness, decided by reason and instinct. The result is staring at you right now in the form of my words. I deferred my degree and have yet to return to it. However, since then I earned a counselling diploma with merit and I’m currently doing a CBT course. Funny enough, MS combined with counselling has proven a much worthier teacher than a part-time degree without MS as the latter would have been more time-consuming and would have added more stress to my life.
As a result, I am still alive. Sometimes a tiny bit do-lally, but alive all the same.
My secret? Listen to your mind, your gut, and what your symptoms are trying to tell you.
The recipe is simple. Try to squeeze as much positivity out of every situation, event, person and yourself. When you do, you’re half on your way to embracing the next few weeks, months or even years.
The easiest and most helpful rule is this: when you are diagnosed, your first thought is, “Will I end up in a wheelchair or not?” Research shows that 25% might. Flip the chart and tell people, “On the other hand, that means there’s a 75% chance I might not!”
It is so simple, yet so effective.
So, when you think you are going through a bad patch and you will not survive, just listen to what your gut is telling you, seek advice from those in the know and let time be the best healer it has always been. This is the time to be practical and rational. Focus on the good and let sad things go.
You will make it on your own or with the help of others.
I hear the MS community is a pretty brave and accepting one. It certainly has been for me.
You will survive.
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.