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

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

The Power of the Brain

“Mind over Matter”

During a recent January rut, I decided to escape into movie-land to occupy my mind with something other than my personal woes. I love movies and I have seen five of them that are recent releases. Four of them are based on true stories; one is not, but I like to imagine that it could have been.

As I watched these movies, it reminded me how powerful the brain is in our ability to survive. There is a common thread in all of them: Mind over matter. It is possible and it does work. Since I live with MS, I think about the brain a lot because it is a disease that involves the brain.

The movie Lone Survivor shows the unbelievable strength and endurance of Navy Seals, as does the lead character in Twelve Years a Slave. How can a person’s psyche be maintained while experiencing such immense physical and emotional pain? Matthew McConaughey’s character was given one month to live in Dallas Buyers Club, yet he finds ways to live another seven years because he’s not ready to die. All is Lost and Gravity are two movies that have characters with incredible intelligence in their fields—sea and space–who find themselves all alone in disastrous situations. Their ability to focus on using their skills and ingenuity, despite their obstacles, keeps their fears at bay.

The will to live, to survive, to endure, to think, to focus, to achieve… Sometimes these can be acquired through training; sometimes it just happens because of the human spirit, hope and faith.

We have all heard stories about people who obtain super-human strength and endurance. The guy stuck in a crevice who cuts his arm off to get free, or the woman who lifts a heavy car off of her child after a crash. POW’s who survive torture. Holocaust survivors.

There are people who beat the odds when given a bad prognosis for something like cancer. Or other chronically ill persons who get better receiving what they thought was a new drug, when unknown to them they had really received a placebo (i.e. a “sugar pill”)!

The possible, the positive. Positive thinking is like an ol’ shot in the arm for me. It gives hope and energy. The confidence to move forward.

I remember using Lamaze when I delivered my son, and had a relatively quick and natural childbirth. Yoga and deep breathing techniques are effective in helping my neuropathic pain and muscle spasms.

I read about the brain often to learn about new research taking place for MS. I’ll start Googling a particular subject like myelin repair, and an hour later I am immersed in reading about rehabilitating a stroke victim. Fascinating stuff going on with the brain.

Yes!–there are other ways to “train” or “re-train” the brain. I have had partial success in past years improving problems that MS has caused me, such as balance and coordination. My will to do aquatics therapy regularly has helped maintain function. Yes!—there has been great advancement in research for restorative function such as stem cells. Clinical trials have started. Yes!—the brain has the ability to repair some damaged myelin in the early years of MS. Yes!—exercising and resting the brain keeps cognition healthy and functioning well.

And then there are powerful things the brain responds to: brainwashing, hypnosis, and drugs. Both positive and negative.

It is a powerful organ, but a delicate one as well. For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would do boxing or head-contact sports. While they are working on battering their brains, I’m working on protecting mine. And while some people will take any drug a doctor will prescribe (or not prescribe!), I diligently do thorough research before taking any new pill or shot. That is what my great-aunt used to refer to as “use your intelligence.”

Mind over matter. Realistically, it doesn’t always work. But I like to believe that a person can do just about anything if he/she puts their mind to it.

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

 

 

 

Using Perspective and Positive Thinking

“Overcoming Hardship and Loss”
June 4, 2012

“I had to put my beloved dog down yesterday. I’d rather have him back than the use of my legs.”  That was a tweet I sent out on Friday.

My dog Bear was such a faithful companion for thirteen years.  My son brought him home and gave him to me when he was only five weeks old.  It was love at first sight, and we were inseparable after that initial bond.  He was very sick when I had to make the decision to put him down.  I know I did the right thing, but I feel such sadness and grief right now.

He was my best friend.  He always listened to me, never was mean to me, and stayed by my side no matter what mood I was in.  If I was happy, he was happy. If I was sad, he was sad.  If I left the house without him, he laid by the door until I came home.  Our favorite activity was to take a long walk around the neighborhood every morning and greet the neighbors.

I started to train him to be a therapy dog early, and he was so smart he would put his own toys away.  Bear was so patient and understood my disability. At seventy pounds, he was sturdy and still as I grabbed onto him for balance, or needed help to roll over or stand. I swear if he could push a vacuum cleaner, he would have swept my floors for me.

Dogs are amazing animals.  They are incredibly smart and their senses are keen.  They don’t complain and if treated right, are so devoted; their love is unconditional.  They want to please, and are taught to be useful and obey. They assist police, soldiers, handicapped people, and others in incredible ways.

I am using the power of perspective and positive thinking to help me through my loss:

* Bear was very seriously sick and now he is at peace.  I know in my heart, mind and gut I made the right decision.

*We had thirteen good years together, and gave each other tremendous joy.  I was lucky, but he was lucky too.  He had a lot of love from everyone whether they knew him or not.  He was always fed, walked, brushed, played with and attended to when he was sick or hurt, up until his last breath.

*So many other dogs (or cats, etc.) never have these things.  They are abused, abandoned, or neglected.  Too many loving animals that could have what Bear and I had never get that chance.  In fact, he had a better life than most people on this planet.

*Likewise, even though I have many difficulties with my MS, I also have a better life than most people. My family loves and supports me, I live in a modest but comfortable home, eat well, and have everything that I need except perfect health.  But then again, I tell myself that things could always be a lot worse.  A good friend has a Down’s syndrome daughter; another friend has a severely autistic child.  My brother-in-law lost his 16-yr. child in a bad accident…

*It’s okay to cry or vent out feelings for awhile.  It’s not being weak or emotional; it’s being human.  My husband, son and I are talking about our feelings and memories.

*I am grateful for the sensitivity and kindness others have shown in support of the loss.  What would I do without my family and friends?

Throughout the years I have suffered many hardships and losses–my physical problems from MS; death of a parent, other close relatives and friends; financial and emotional distress from job losses of both my husband and myself—the list is quite long.  I have used my perspective and positive thinking through these difficult situations to help me cope with my grief.  Things happen in life we don’t always understand or think are unfair.  I think experience, age, my MS and attitude have taught me that. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

So I will be sad for now but slowly heal in time to the point where my sadness will dissipate and fond memories will replace it.  I will always feel Bear’s loss, but I accept it and will continue to move forward. Life goes on and Bear would want me to go forward with it.

www.DebbieMS.com