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Why Learning Self-Care Is a Process as Someone With Multiple Sclerosis

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Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.”Seneca, “Letters From a Stoic”

These are wise words indeed, especially if you are living with a chronic illness or are a disabled person, when every day can bring different symptoms, feelings and obstacles. Not so easy though, is it?

Yesterday, I gave in. For two days I had been feeling awful. Deep down I knew why, but as usual, I kept going.

For two weeks before Christmas, I was busy, as many people are. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I get away with not planning and buying presents and food like everybody else. Plus, my mother turned 90 in December and my daughters and I organized a family party for her. I do find social occasions a bit exhausting, even if it’s just family. I had to be in my manual chair because the house has steps up to the front door. This means I usually get put in a convenient corner out of the way of everyone milling, but of course I can’t do any milling of my own.

Because of all the festivities, I didn’t do any writing for two weeks. I took the time to read about improving my writing. That was exhausting because I had to concentrate. After the new year I managed to get out two or three pieces, but then, nothing. I dried up and I could not motivate myself. I found myself reading articles about optimizing my blog, as I had convinced myself that was my goal for 2020. I was now two weeks into a very unproductive January, and I found myself feeling out of sorts, not being able to eat much with aches and pains. I was struggling with extreme anxiety.

I couldn’t believe I had fallen for that old MS trick again, when it’s been happening for years. All I needed was to take a day in bed to just watch a bit of TV, listen to some music and sleep. So that’s what I did. I was warm, comfortable and relaxed.

Today I feel like a new person. Like Phoenix rising from the ashes, I’m ready to take on the world! Well, not really, but I got up this morning desperate to write. It’s amazing that just taking one day in bed completely away from emails, social media etc. can make such a difference. What I can’t get my head around is why I didn’t recognize what was happening and allowed myself to get into such a dark place.

I can’t believe how much time I spent reading about marketing strategies I’m not ready for and am not in a place to pursue. Don’t get me wrong, the material was very well written by people who know what they are talking about, but the jargon being used was beyond me! So I stressed about never being able to get people to read my blog or my articles if I didn’t master the jargon. Result: increasing anxiety, until my head hurt and my stomach was churning.

Here are the things I’ve learned from this:

Always listen to what your body is telling you. Whatever type of disability you have your body can always tell you something.

Don’t push yourself beyond your physical and/or mental capabilities.

Learn your main limitations and own them. They are yours and yours alone. That way it’s easier to avoid pushing yourself too far.

Realize if you do go beyond the limit, you need take time to recover. Take a walk if you are able, stay in bed for as long as you need, do what you want.

Don’t think it’s your fault if you have to step away from things for a while. No one knows your condition like you do — do what you have to do.

Self-care is the single most important thing you can give yourself when you are a disabled person.

It’s taken me so long to learn these things. I think it’s because I felt I was giving in. It goes against every part of my character and everything I was before.

If you are newly diagnosed, you may feel some or all of these things too. These tips can help you realize that having a chronic illness doesn’t necessarily stop you from doing things, but learning from what your body is telling you can help you live your best life.

Don’t forget tomorrow is a new day, or even a new life!

Getty image by Vera Petunia.

Originally published: January 28, 2020
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