The Power of the Brain: A Coping Mechanism

 

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                  This has been what my head and life has been these past several months.

Scrambled. Out of order. Unfocused. Need of repair.

My usual ‘normal’ MS life was severely disrupted several months ago. For me, first a virus that took a long time to go away, then a badly injured right shoulder rotator cuff, then cancer surgery. Meantime, my hubby has been going through the process to determine the cause of his severe joint pain and swelling; possible RA? Don’t know yet, but only know that sometimes he’s worse off than me. I’m now a caregiver and patient. And then the problems with my aging mother, finances…

Somehow we manage to cope and find the strength to keep going.  How?

One of my favorite MS blog posts I wrote is “The Power of the Brain” http://blog.debbiems.com/?p=310 . I pull it out from time to time and read it for my own inspiration.

Since I can’t seem to find the time, energy, or the focus to write and continue my blog yet, I thought I would repeat this post. I hope it will inspire you, too.

www.DebbieMS.com
Author, MS Counselor, Living with MS

What MSers Really Need from Others

“The chronically ill, too.”

Even though this post was written for a MS Blog, the following list can apply to supporters of patients who are chronically ill. As an MS patient myself who was trained as a MS peer counselor thirty years ago, I found myself talking with and listening to patients who were chronically ill with something else.

This list is for family, friends, co-workers, health care professionals…i.e. the people we associate with in our lives. While it seems to be simple and just common sense, it is amazing how many folks say the wrong things or don’t even know what to say.*

1. Empathy vs. Sympathy
Most MSers don’t want you to feel sorry for them. They want you to try and understand MS and their symptoms/problems. Visualize putting yourselves in their shoes.

2. Listening vs. Talking
Sometimes MSers like to talk about MS and sometimes they do not. If they wish not to talk or get emotional, do not take it personally or compare them to others. More often than not, they need others to listen to them.

3. Inspiration vs. Reality
Inspiration is vital and wanted. However, there are times when MSers are so sick or fatigued, they don’t want cheerleading, humor, or advice. Give hugs and be sensitive to their feelings.

4. Knowledge and Support
The more accurate knowledge that is obtained from reliable sources, the less fear there will be. The more support that a MSer has from whom they interact with, the easier it will be for them to manage their MS, lives, and adjustments. What kind of support? Just ask the patient, or offer to do something to make their life easier (like make a meal, watch kids, do laundry…).

*Here is a link to view my background/credentials http://debbiems.com/about-debbie_269.html

www.Debbiems.com
Author/MS Counselor/Living with MS

The Truth about MS and Wheelchairs

“My Personal Insights”

If you asked anyone “What do you think of when you hear the term MS?” the answer usually includes “wheelchairs.”

When my first relapse happened back in 1980, a picture of a person with MS in a wheelchair was always shown, even by the MS Society. Perhaps it was to help with fundraising, or perhaps it was to a way to draw attention to a disease that was not usually heard of.

Whatever the case, it did create a picture of “this is MS” and the huge fear of living a life in a wheelchair. That vision still exists today, despite the advances in awareness and research that have occurred. Despite the reality that MS involves many other neurological symptoms in addition to a life in a wheelchair.

I know much about this because I am one of those MSers who ended up in a wheelchair. And I want to speak up about MS and wheelchairs to try to correct that picture and reduce that fear for anyone dealing with MS.

1. Over a lifetime, only 20-25% end up in a wheelchair. That was the statistic in 1980, and it probably is less today due to the development of the disease-modifying drugs that have been available since the mid-90’s.

I have many friends who have had MS over 30 years, and I am the one of a few who is in a wheelchair permanently. Now, of course many patients use walkers or canes since MS and mobility problems usually go hand-in-hand, but few are not hunched over paralyzed, completely debilitated in a wheelchair.

2. A person can have a quality life living in a wheelchair, though admittedly the limitations it causes can be frustrating. Again, I know.

I manage my MS well and despite having lived permanently in a wheelchair these past thirteen years, I have had a happy life. I travel, swim, volunteer, take care of many household responsibilities… And the other MSers I know who are in my position would agree their lives are full and active.

Having MS certainly is not a cakewalk, but it certainly isn’t the end of the world either. There are far worse things in life. Plus, I must add that there are other MS symptoms that can be difficult, such as vision loss and overwhelming fatigue. However, so many of these symptoms can be successfully managed to minimize their interfering effects.

3. Wheelchairs should be viewed as a friend, not the enemy. So, you ask, what the heck does THAT mean? I’ll explain.

At many MS events and online, I see and hear people with mobility issues struggling with trying to walk without a walking aid, or one that is not suitable for them. Part of it is due to vanity, or part of it is a desire to not “give in” to MS.

• Is vanity worth the risk of falling down and getting hurt? In truth, I purposely started using a wheelchair full-time even though I could walk with a walker for 15-30 steps. The years on steroids, the osteoporosis, and my age put me at great risk for breaking an arm or leg. Instead, I used the swimming pool to walk and exercise safely.

• Before I went into the chair permanently, I used a power chair on a part-time basis around the house and scooters that were available in stores for customers. It is a tremendous help in reducing fatigue and getting more things done. This was a great morale booster. In addition, the pain from overused muscles and poor posture was lessoned substantially.

I wasn’t giving into my MS at all. There are many persons with MS that will use a scooter or wheelchair because of fatigue, weakness, balance problems, or to assist with conserving energy.

4. The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled. Three out of four people who have MS remain able to walk, though many will need an aid, such as a cane or crutches.*

Before I decided to post this article, I talked to a couple of good friends of mine to ask them about the content of this article. They, like me, are the “Ol’ MS Vets”, i.e. who have lived with MS for decades and also have been involved with the MS community for the same amount of time. We know this disease because we have lived with it and been continuously involved with its research. 

We are a reliable resource you can trust.

www.DebbieMS.com
Author/MS Counselor/Living with MS

*Note: This statistic is listed in many reputable resources. The Nat’l MS Society used to use this percentage until several years ago, but changed it to 35% based on some study. I question their revision, as well as the study, because with the numerous DMDs that have been/are available, the percentage of MSers in wheelchairs permanently should have declined, not increased.

The Optimist and the Pessimist

“Attitude is Everything”


August 6, 2014

I am an optimist. My husband is a pessimist. If I say “wow, the sky is so blue”, he’ll say “I hate the sun, I like it cloudy.”

They say opposites attract but sometimes I don’t know how I have survived 36 years of marriage with a person who is a pessimist.

My husband and I just got back from a mini camping trip in our RV and truthfully, it really was frustrating. It rained constantly for almost the entire trip, so we were confined to stay in the RV. For me, it was cozy listening to the rain while reading a novel and watching movies. For him, he seemed to complain about everything and didn’t even want to play cards with me.

After being in this situation, I started writing a post about why the need to vent from time to time is essential to your health. This morning I was going to finish it when I came across this article about optimism and pessimism in the newspaper. I felt like it was written for me.

This article is so important, I once again decided to postpone my post-in-process and share this. Not only is optimism necessary to survive life, it is necessary to survive MS. Pessimistic people drag you down, something that is not good if you are trying to cope with a chronic illness.

Optimism trumps pessimism in workplace, life

President Harry S. Truman once said, “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

Which do you think will reach their goals, live a happy life and achieve their dreams?

Imagine interviewing two people who have identical skills, but one is always grumbling about how unfair life can be, while the other one talks about what wonderful possibilities exist.

Naturally, you would gravitate toward the optimist. If you choose the pessimist, you would be setting yourself up for plenty of aggravation and disappointment, not to mention the negative impact on your staff and customers. Pessimism can bring everyone down, not just the person with the negative attitude.

Pessimism is nothing more than self-sabotage. Expecting only the worst is not being realistic. Realists hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Pessimists can’t imagine the best, so they prepare for the worst. And then if the worst never happens? Pessimists often find the worst possible result simply to prove that their concerns were right.

The question becomes, would you rather be right than be happy? That’s not being realistic, either. That’s being self-defeating. Pessimism can rob you of your energy, sap you of your strength and drain you of your dreams.

Optimism is the remedy. Optimism doesn’t mean pre¬tending life is always wonderful. Optimism means embracing reality. You accept that there will be bad days, but also good days. When you’re grounded in reality, you know where you are and how far you need to go. Once you know how far your goal may be from where you are, optimism can give you the motivation to make plans to get to where you want to go.

Pessimists see life as one problem after another. Optimists see life as one opportunity after another.

How you look at life can drastically affect how much you enjoy your life. Optimists expect the best out of life.

Does it make sense that pessimists tend to blame others or circumstances for their failures?

Optimists help create some of the good they come to expect, so they are probably right more often than not — and they don’t waste time worrying about what they’re not right about. Optimism relaxes people. When we’re relaxed, there is better blood flow to the brain, which results in more energy and creativity in your life.

There is virtually nothing that you can’t do if you set your mind to it. You cannot control events in your life, but you can control how you react.

Do you want to be a pessimist and have no hope for a better future? Or would you rather be an optimist and believe you can achieve a better future?

Mackay’s Moral: Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush — it can color any situation.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, harveymackay.com, or by e-mailing harvey@mackay.com.

In my situation, I learned years ago how to ignore or escape my husband’s negativity. While I succeeded most of the time, the times that I couldn’t get away from it caused tremendous stress. Not only did the stress impact my MS symptoms negatively, it would make me moody and stifle my motivation to move forward. Fortunately, I am a strong-willed person and almost always found alternative sources of optimism (e.g. friends, enjoyable interests/activities…) to lift me up before I got dragged into the depths of an abyss.

Now, in all fairness, my husband is a great guy and has many positive attributes. None of us is perfect. I am a sensitive person who cries easily or pouts. Personality traits are difficult to change; a person has to recognize a change needs to be made and then take great effort to make the changes. But this is a slow process that requires much patience.

If you don’t live with a pessimistic person, it’s easy to get away from him/her. An optimist living with a pessimist will be a lethal combination if coping mechanisms can’t be accomplished.

I know from experience. And I know that one of main reasons I have survived managing my MS is because I am an optimist. Attitude is everything.

www.DebbieMS.com
Author/MS Counselor/Living with MS

MS and Your Relationships

“Strategies & Tips”

On February 15th, I facilitated a workshop entitled “MS and Your Relationships” in Phoenix. The workshop was part of Genzyme’s One Day for Every Day Event. This is a summary of that workshop, as I want to share this information with a larger audience.

I began by telling the attendees that a one-hour timeframe was not enough for this big, important subject. It’s bad enough that everything about MS is complex, from the diagnosis to the symptoms; after all, the nervous system is involved. But people are highly complex too because of their thoughts and emotions. So when you put the two subjects together—yikes!!

Just about everyone in the room with MS was there with someone else—either a spouse, sibling or friend. This was good because everyone living with the MSer is also living with MS. And that goes beyond the immediate family.

My presentation was to discuss communication strategies and tips to create a foundation of open and honest communication. I adjusted this goal to first, make the group interactive, and second, address two other critical aspects of relationships: support and knowledge.

• Support and knowledge reduce the fear one has with an MS diagnosis. The more you have of both, the better chance you have to survive this disease. One has to be careful though where one gets the knowledge since because of social media, there is much information available today that can be overwhelming and inaccurate.

• Since MS is still a lifetime illness, knowledge and support will change many times as time marches on due to disease progression and lifetime changes that will occur.

• Everyone in the room needs it; everyone outside the room needs it. What is NOT a strategy? Doing nothing—doing no communicating, obtaining no knowledge, getting no support. Anyone dealing with MS will not survive it if none of these are done.

Who are the relationships the person with MS interacts with? What do we say to whom? Who do need support from?

• Family: partners, children, parents, siblings (Needs communication at appropriate level; “show & tell” is a great game to play to help a non-MSer understand invisible symptoms. For example, have men walk in spike heels to understand balance issues; put 10-lb, weights around ankles to experience walking heaviness and fatigue; put a knit glove on a person and have them find objects in a purse like tissue, quarters, etc.)

• Friends (How much you share depends on depth/closeness of friends.)

• Workplace people: boss, colleagues, human resources (very subjective area—many reasons to disclose or not to disclose)

What groups were missing from the power point slide in the presentation that are just as important?

• Peers (They are a lifeline for both MSers and non-MSers—someone you can easily relate to because they are “in your shoes.”)

• Healthcare team (Make sure all of them understand and have experience with persons with MS!  For example, a physical therapist needs to understand the effects of heat and fatigue of MS. Also, you need to like and trust your neurologist; if you don’t, fire him/her and get another one, as this is a lifetime, crucial relationship.)

• Strangers (I have had to ask strangers for help many times since I had mobility problems since my early years. For example, helping me reach something in a grocery store, or assisting me in a dressing room. People in general–in all of the above groups too–like and want to help. It makes them feel good, and they hate to see someone struggle. Personally, I will let people help even if I don’t necessarily need it!)

• Pets (Wow—they understand/comfort us the most, don’t they?!)

I had all eyes on me from my audience, and many nods or claps. It was interesting to see hands go up when I asked how many felt they needed better support in various groups or who didn’t like their neurologist.

Talk is good, even if it doesn’t solve anything. It feels good to get things off our chest. I have an old MS buddy who called me recently and asked, “Can you talk to me? Is this a good time?” But if there is someone like a stranger or a fellow employee who asks you something that you don’t want to talk about, just simply say: “It’s a long story…”

Venting is also good, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. For example, when I get stressed out or frustrated, I cry or call a close friend of mine who is a peer. My husband on the other hand will yell or throw things in an un-harmful way. We go our separate ways to vent because I don’t like his yelling, and he doesn’t like my crying. When the steam is released from the pressure cooker, everything calms down. Holding things inside without a release is dangerously stressful, and we all know how stress negatively affects MS.

What if the people we need to talk with will not communicate or talk? Then it is essential to find someone who will…

In the beginning of my MS, my family was in denial. I went straight to the local chapter of the National MS Society to get literature and meet others who had MS. Later, when both my husband and my mother wouldn’t talk to me about my MS, I went to a therapist who understood MS to help myself deal with these two close people in my life. Years later, I went to a therapist again when deciding whether to give up my career. My MS was aggressive and it was progressing rapidly.

There’s no question that people living with a person with a chronic illness such as MS, is also living with it too. While open communication is essential for all involved, it unfortunately doesn’t always happen effectively without having an “outside” person/s involved. Perceptions are different, emotions are involved, and more often than not, negative consequences result. Ideally, partner/family counseling is essential in most cases.

Realistically, there are obstacles with professional counseling. The first is that many people–whether they have the illness or not–do not want to go to counseling. This was the case in my own personal situation and though I pleaded with my family to go, it didn’t happen. So I went to counseling on my own and fortunately, it helped me tremendously to figure out how to handle my family relationships and how and where I could get support that I needed. Secondly, I believe it is imperative that a good, reputable therapist who UNDERSTANDS MS is found. MS is complicated in many ways, is generally progressive, and currently lasts a lifetime. Finally, many people unfortunately cannot afford therapy; however, many county health departments have resources available for financially strapped people.

So what are strategies to foster healthy communication?

• Should you always be honest about your feelings? When I asked everyone in the room if they were ever dishonest about their feelings, every single hand went up! It obviously is a judgment call, depending upon the people involved, and their personalities. With your healthcare team, you need to be honest. With everyone else, the group agreed that you can’t be a constant complainer or whiner. Be selective with whom you are comfortable with and trust to discuss your concerns, problems, fears, etc.

• Keep a journal about important things that need to be communicated, whether it is info to discuss with your doctor, modifications that need to be made at work, or just notes about what you want to talk about.

• Pick an appropriate time and place for a discussion. Trying to talk when one is tired, hungry, or stressed out will be a disaster. Try to be in a relaxed frame of mind, when interruptions will not occur.

• Be respectful of what the other person is saying—this is a two-way conversation. Actively listen to each other, and avoid accusations, finger pointing, name calling, yelling, etc. How and what we say matters, as well as the tone that we use. Avoid negativity.

• Two-thirds of communication occurs through body language. Your posture, facial expressions, eye contact, etc. speaks volumes. When someone rolls their eyes or points a finger at you, what does that indicate?

• Ask for help and ask to help. People want to help, and people need help. Be explicit or give examples when talking about this to help clarify your statements. Ask questions and share perspectives. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. And remember—none of us are mind readers. Not only are you communicating here, you are educating.

• Everyone should show and express their gratitude often. Give complements.

• A hug, kiss or smile goes a long way.

• From experience, I believe that we MSers set the tone and comfort level. If we are relaxed and open, the other person will be too.

• My personal advice to all: show and give empathy, not sympathy.

• Use humor when appropriate. Many times, the subject being discussed can be very sensitive and not funny at all. Or, it is hard to be humorous when you are not feeling well.

• Avoid arguing and be patient. If an argument develops or patience is lost, quit the discussion and regroup later.

• Always try. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Well we ran over our one-hour timeframe, which was no surprise. But it was a start, and I always say that “Getting started with anything is the hard part.” Now everyone has a framework or some ground rules they can try to use to enhance their communication, support and knowledge.

At the conclusion, I gave everyone a copy of a previous blog that I had written entitled “MSers and Their Loved Ones.” http://debbiepetrina.authorsxpress.com/?p=61

www.DebbieMS.com
Author, MS Counselor/Living with MS

Please visit my website for more articles, videos, my book, MS information and resources.

 


Positivity: Essential For Our Health & Happiness

“How to Embrace It”

July 16, 2013

Having a positive perspective in life is critical to both our health and happiness.

Earlier this year I came across an article by Renie Cavallari, CEO and Chief inspirational officer of Aspire Marketing and Training, and saved it. Recently I went through a negative spell, and re-reading this article helped me re-focus and turn my attitude positive again. Since her article is so good, I decided to take direct excerpts from it to share with others:

“Nothing positive comes from negativity. How you choose to see the world is how you experience it. You feel the way you think and your thoughts reflect your actions.

As a human being, you can control how you feel. You can choose to take any situation and consider it from a positive perspective. This is not to say that when you feel bad or sad, you should deny your feelings. What you can do is decide how you will allow the people and events of your life to affect your world.

Things happen that are disappointing, upsetting or overwhelming. This is when you have to conscientiously change your perspective so you can get to a more productive mental space. You cannot change the events of your life. You can change how you experience them.

Here are a few tips:

• Ask yourself, “What is right or good about this situation?” Avoid the negative narrative and find what is helpful.

• When your energy is low, this is the first sign that you want to get some exercise. Exercise actually “turns on” our energy and has a way of giving our negative thoughts and feelings a place to release. Just take a walk, breathe in, pick up your pace and burn off the negative energy.

• Who you hang out with is who you become. Some people just give off negative energy; this is why we feel so exhausted around them. When disappointments happen, you want positive and supportive people in your world. Fire the naysayers. They are not helpful and only hold you back.

• Sometimes embracing the humor of a situation helps. Ask yourself, “What about this situation will be funny in a year? Or maybe five years?

• Move to solutions. Many times we think about what is wrong vs. what we can do next. If you stay in a place of a problem (what is wrong), you end up feeling negative and stuck.

When you start planning what you are going to do, you begin to feel empowered and in control; you start moving toward what you want. This forward momentum creates more positive energy and gets you where you want to go.

Your energy determines how you feel and experience your life. Positivity is the fuel for happiness.”

Thank you, Renie!

www.DebbieMS.com

Stuck in a Negative Spell & Attitude

“Grieving”

July 16, 2013

Normally I am a very optimistic person.  Throughout my life, I dealt with many major, difficult events that required life adjustments.  Going through a grieving process—denial, anger, depression, bargaining–often accompanies the life adjustments.  Somehow I always managed to plow forward through the process rather quickly, restoring a positive attitude and looking for that silver lining.

People have often remarked what an inspiration I am and how well I do. But lately, not this time.  I have been stuck in one of those negative spells, with a negative attitude.  In April, I developed complications from a UTI, got a virus, and had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic all at the same time.  The perfect storm stirred up my MS to the point that left me completely incapacitated. I was admitted into the hospital.

Fortunately, after weeks of treatment and home care therapy, the infections and sickness went away and the MS calmed down.  Physically, I returned to my previous pre-relapse “normal” state.  But having the weeks of downtime and being incapacitated shook me to the core. My mental and emotional state didn’t rebound so easily. Every day I got out of bed and went through the motions of life, but with no smiles or enthusiasm. I was  existing without any happiness. My emotions were erratic and unpredictable.  Nothing was fun or funny.

I was grieving.

I was sick of being sick of being sick and tired of being tired.  Too many times over too many years of problem solving and adjusting.  My mind shut down; it was hard to think, which is what I always seem to do.  Think.

Everything in my life has to be planned and organized around my bathroom problems, medications, accessibility needs, physical limitations, fatigue, waiting for others to help me with something… And every thing I do takes so long to do.  Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort. Everything is a production.

This coming September, I have a trip planned to Alaska.  While “normal” people are looking forward to the cruise, food and excursions, I am dreading it all.  I worry about embarrassing myself with a bathroom accident.  Or, what will I do if I get a serious UTI, since I am resistant to oral antibiotics?  I have to plan to try and prevent these things from happening.  It is exasperating.

On the other side of the coin, so often I have to cancel my laborious plans because I don’t feel well, am too fatigued, maybe didn’t sleep well, require a laxative…  I have to plan, but other times I can’t plan something because of some physical or accessible limitation. It drives me crazy.  I can’t be spontaneous about anything.

Over the years, one reason I have kept a personal journal was to vent my sadness, stress or frustration.  Here are a couple of entries made during this bad spell:

“I wish I could just have 24 hours of being a normal person with no physical problems. To sleep through the night without waking up because of a cramp, a spasm, a pain, or to have to pee.  To not wake up tired after being in bed for eight hours. To sit down and pee without the hassle of using a catheter. To have a bowel movement without worrying about if I am going to go, or if I am going to get to the commode in time.  To eat whatever I want without bloating, gas… To have a day with no pain, or edema.  To be able to walk.  To have a day when I could everything myself without waiting or depending on someone to help me. To not have to worry about changing or cancelling plans because I am too tired.  To not drop things.  To be able to jump in the car and drive someplace alone. “

“Life is a journey as people often say.  But why is it that some people just seem to cruise through life?  Sometimes I feel like I’ve been travelling on some bumpy, dirt road never knowing when an obstacle will pop up.  It always does.  A flat tire.  A dead end.  A detour.  Overheated.  A breakdown.  Out of gas.  An unmarked fork in the road—which way to go?  Stuck in a rut.”

In the past, I always reached out somewhere, like counseling, to get me through my grieving.  Grieving isn’t a bad thing; it is a coping mechanism.  But grieving too long is not good.  It will crush your mind, body and spirit.  I wasn’t reaching out this time and I was getting crushed.

Two things happened over the past month that broke me out of this spell and helped me heal my spirit. The first thing was that a lost dog appeared in front on our house late one evening, barking incessantly.  This dog was a clone of my beloved companion Bear that died exactly a year earlier, both in looks and personality.  After a month of unsuccessfully locating the owner of this lovable one-year old pup, we adopted “Grizzly”, aka “Little Bear” as we named him.

Second, I came across an article about positivity that I saved from earlier this year.  It was also a catalyst that started me thinking healthy thoughts again.  I’m posting it today on my blog after I post this article so that it may inspire others as it inspired me.

Divine intervention?  I think so.  Faith, hope and love are so powerful.  They pulled me out of the deep, dark hole I fell into and got me over my grieving.  I’m moving forward again with a positive outlook and I’m smiling again on the inside and out. 

www.DebbieMS.com

Does the Doctor Really Know What’s Best for You?

“It’s your choice.”

June 18, 2013

I have seen doctors for almost all of the forty years of my adult life, and this is what I learned:

While I need to have doctors in my life as I deal with MS, I ultimately know what is best for me to do—not my doctors. I know my body and I will always make the final decision relative to how I want to be treated by a doctor. My doctors are there for support, knowledge, prescriptions, consultation and referrals. If I believe I am not getting from a doctor what I (or my insurance) is paying for, I will fire him/her.

It is a viewpoint other older MS veterans have shared with me.

Many MS specialist-neurologists are experts—they have seen numerous patients and are trained with knowledge. But I am an expert too, with a lot of common sense. I have talked with numerous people dealing with MS (both patients and professionals), and constantly research information about my disorder.

Each case of MS is different with regard to disability, rate and duration of relapses/progression, symptoms, response to medications and treatments, etc. It is a fact that that no two cases are alike. I believe I know my body best in terms of how I feel and how my body acts/reacts; this is information that I must note and share with my doctor.

I live with MS, monitoring and documenting many things regarding my own case, 24/7 every day–symptoms, side effects, triggers… A doctor looks at my case and evaluates me for only about fifteen minutes every 6-12 months. As one recent MSer complained to me, “I just wish a doctor would listen to my symptoms and not just do their little neurological test of pinch here, pock here and say nothing wrong here. This sucks.”

Recently, I spoke with a person with MS who was complaining how bad MS had been affecting her cognitive abilities. During the discussion, I learned the doctor prescribed her a sleeping pill, an anxiety pill, and a pain pill—all at the same time!! It was no wonder why her mental faculties were impaired. Where’s the common sense here?

Other patients receive scripts to treat two or three things at one time with no instruction to start them at different intervals. How would someone know what is affecting what, positively or negatively?

Since I am not on a DMD treatment, I choose not to get MRI’s. Personally, I don’t care how many lesions I have or how big they are because that by itself isn’t always reliable in terms of what to take, do, or how bad I am. For me, going for an MRI every six months is a waste of my time and money. But that is my choice and my decision.

And doctors are not always right. Doctors make mistakes or poor decisions as well. Maybe they are having a bad day, are overloaded, or were given faulty test results. Let’s face it—why do people get second or even third opinions before having major surgery, for example?

Truthfully, I like, need and want my doctors. Doctors have things I don’t have–the ability to write prescriptions, order tests for evaluation, and referrals for things like therapy or specialists. I use them to get these things. Also, I really do want to listen to their expertise and judgment, and consult with them about any course of action.

Now I do not have major cognitive issues that interfere with my judgment. But there have been times when I was distraught with anxiety or depression and I felt I didn’t want to make a decision alone. I asked the doctor if he was in my shoes, “What would you do?” I have enough trust in my primary professionals to follow their advice. In these situations, I also have a close family member or friend with me to listen and help evaluate the circumstances. Teamwork is good.

When I choose a doctor, I find one that has very high ratings and one that I am compatible with. It enhances my confidence when I make my final decision about a course of action.

I have been blessed to have two MS specialist-neurologists in two different states that were both opened-minded and respected my personal choices. They talked with me, not at me or down to me. They also recognize that I am the one living with MS and know my body best. However, “Two heads are always better than one” when evaluating anything, so I am open minded as well. And throughout the years, there were certainly good reasons to see and confer with my doctors.

So choose your doctor and your course of action wisely.

www.DebbieMS.com

 

Attitude is Everything

“Taking Control of Yourself”

January 23, 2013

I was in the process of writing an article about the ramifications of mental and emotional health when living with a chronic illness like MS, when I came across the following post today while perusing an MS connection online site. It is so incredibly good I am taking the liberty of sharing it to others I know with MS.

“Hi everyone, I have been away from this site for a long time. Just recently got back on. When I first found the site I was looking for help with my MS. Received really good advice then didn’t come back regularly as I should have.

I have learned a lot in the last 7 months. I believe in “pay forward” so I wish to share this with you. I hope it helps and doesn’t insult anyone. The bottom line is I am in control of what I choose to do and not to do, remember this throughout this message.

I have had a multitude of symptoms. Number one is DEPRESSION! I believe this is the cornerstone to a lot of my choosing not to do. I have done mental health therapy with a counselor, PT and OT. Through all of this I became educated. Now I am realizing that I chose to stay in my poor me syndrome. I was so sick of doctor appointments, running constantly which cause me to be exhausted and frustrated because no one could fix me.

I hate the cognitive fog, forgetfulness, physical limitations, sexual dysfunction, tremors, pain, confusion; I hated every part of MS and what it has done to me. I missed the old me and desperately wanted to be fixed without having to work so damn hard to try to get back to the old me. My neurologist told me “change your attitude and you will feel better”. I was pissed off to say the least. It has been 2 months since I have seen him, and I now know he is right. I am in control of my attitude.

My depression was preventing me from living, and I chose to stay this way in misery. We increased my depression meds and I slowly began to change my attitude, which is very challenging with the unpredictability of MS.

I am trying to laugh alot more and trying to adapt to my challenges. Helping myself get enough sleep, drinking fluids, getting educated, another words helping myself. There are days I eat the wrong foods, drink too much caffeine, smoke too much (still working on this need to quit) and those days I know I have myself to thank for how crappy I feel. Exercise is very helpful mentally and physically. I wouldn’t exercise because I couldn’t do what I used to do, so I chose not to do it. This only hurts me more.

So I guess what I want to tell you all, is look deep into yourselves and do a personal inventory. I had to realize I can’t be fixed. No cure for MS. Accept this. Then change your attitude from can’t do to I can do. Find the laughter! As hard as it is to do, acknowledge we are not who we were before MS. We are trapped in this auto immune, unpredictable disease. Say this totally sucks. Then move on. Start over building the new you. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be each moment, acknowledge your success and failure. If you fail, look at the reason why, did you bring this on yourself? Sometimes we cause the situation, other times it’s just the MS. If the latter is the cause, move on; adjust then if you can laugh through it. But you have to move past it.

I type these words and know some of you won’t get it and maybe it will help some of you. I chose not to do a lot; I needed to wallow through the misery of MS. I will have bad days, and if I chose to stay there, this is my choice. I can’t imagine anyone not being depressed with a diagnosis of MS. It’s so devastating. I remember when I was diagnosed I thought “oh thank God I’m not crazy”; there was a reason for what was happening to me. But then I allowed the MS to make me crazy by wanting to be fixed and have all this crap go away. Well it doesn’t and everyday is a new day and full of challenges and ups and downs.

Also, how many times have we heard stress will exacerbate our symptoms, “try to avoid stress”? OMG! Are you kidding me? Ladies and Gents life is not stress free nor is it avoidable. The key to success is how you handle the stress, not how do you avoid it. I mean really you have this incurable disease that has robbed you, this is stressful.

I have a new attitude (most of the time) about stress. It is what it is. I look at stress and think how does this really affect me? I can allow myself to get all wrapped up in the drama, or I can meet it head on, fix it or forget it. If you can end the drama, do it. Set the boundaries. Don’t allow others to suck you into things that really don’t affect you. Shelter yourselves from the unnecessary drama. This only zaps your energy and well being. You need to protect yourself. Stress is like infectious bacteria that want to invade you and make you sick.

Set boundaries, make them know and put up your shield. Some people may think you are being mean or uncaring. So be it. I know what I need to do to keep myself upright and moving forward. If they can’t accept this, then I guess they are not ready to accept me for who I have to be. I can help them but only if they don’t suck me into the stress and drama.

You need to see things in black and white at first, don’t allow a gray area. As I learn more about me and what I can tolerate, I may be able to not have such a strong force field around me. But for now this is what I need to do for me. This saves my energy for the moments I have to really deal with big stressors that take me by surprise. Then when I have those stressful times, I can take a realistic approach to how to not allow it to make me sick. I can think clearer and reset the boundaries for each “big” stressful situation. May the force be with you all!

I hope this rambling helps most who read it. Some of you may think I am nuts (sometimes I am but my counselor assures me I am not crazy). The bottom line is take care of yourself first, everyone else comes after you. You need to find your “new” self and set realistic goal and boundaries and make them known. Say them out loud for loved ones to hear and understand. Ask for help, but don’t ask everyone to do everything for you. Rise to the challenge and find the “new you”. I never thought I would say this, but MS has helped me to see how the old me really wasn’t all that healthy mentally or physically. The new me will be a new and improved, just slower but I have a better outlook today than yesterday and for that I am grateful.

Best wishes to you all! Your friend in MS, Michele”

No Michele—you are not rambling and you are not nuts. You are an incredible inspiration. There is a sign in my doctor’s office that reads “Attitude is everything—Pick a good one!” I love yours and the next time I get down in the dumps and have trouble getting out of it, I will read your post. I give it a AAA+ grade, for An Awesome Attitude.

There is no mystery that people with positive attitudes are happier, live longer, and are stronger.

Thank you.

www.DebbieMS.com

Give a Gift of Knowledge & Support

“A Holiday Stocking Stuffer”

November 26, 2012

Every week I write an article with substance for persons dealing with multiple sclerosis. As the holiday season is upon us, this week’s article is about giving a gift of substance to someone or even to yourself. Like a good book about a serious illness.

I wrote my book, Managing MS: Straight Talk From a Thirty-One Year Survivor, to help others dealing with MS. But Managing MS also has many chapters suitable for persons dealing with other chronic illnesses/autoimmune diseases, or for people in general who want to learn about something new.

This upbeat self-help guide is a knowledge and support tool. Acquiring more knowledge and support about something that is unknown will result in less fear, mystery and misconceptions about it. Packed with information and inspiration, Managing MS will leave the reader feeling both good and grateful in addition to the knowledge acquired– whether one does, or does not, have a serious illness or disease.

Many have told me it is a book of substance. Recently, a man approached me when I was volunteering at an MS Walk, and said he came for the purpose of meeting me. He read my book and wanted to thank me in person and sign it for him. Diagnosed just a year ago, he said it changed both his and his family’s lives. The entire staff of my PCP’s office read the book, and my PCP bought copies to give to a MS patient that would come in for an office visit.

It is a short, easy read of less than 150 pages (with resources) that would make a great stocking stuffer.

BUT…If my book is not of interest, get a book—any meaningful, inspiring book—that will give knowledge and support of a subject. It will be a worthwhile gift and a great stocking stuffer.

After all, ‘tis the season of sharing, giving, helping and hope. 🙂

www.DebbieMS.com
Book trailer    http://debbiems.com/book_278.html