Finding Joy in a Life with MS
by Christine Brovelli O’Brien
As I sit here writing this, I am pulling myself out of the funk I’ve been in for a few weeks.
My husband pointed out that I fell into this funk soon after I went to see my neurologist for my six-month check-up.
My mood didn’t make sense to me (or my husband) because the appointment went well. My RRMS is in remission, my optic neuritis is stable, I should be happy. And I am. But, I also find myself focusing on the downsides: I have MS. I will be on medication “long term.” There is no cure.
After I thought about it, I finally acknowledged that I wasn’t allowing the good news to have an impact on me. Instead, I saw it as a harsh reminder that I have a chronic illness. And that’s a tough fact to face.
Although I definitely think I needed some time to wallow (and catch up on some much-needed rest), I realized that this attitude isn’t going to take me very far.
When you feel defeated by MS, as I have lately, it’s important to open yourself up to the good things in the world around you – the joy that comes from noticing and experiencing and sharing the amazing things around you.
So, I’ve decided to challenge myself to push away my bad mood, to focus on the moments that provide me with beauty, laughter, happiness, and gratitude.
For example, tonight I was late driving my three-year-old daughter to her ballet class, but instead of stressing out, I meditated on the beautiful sunset that was projecting shards of light across the newly-harvested cornfields. My daughter and I were both relaxed by the time we got to the dance studio (with three minutes to spare!).
And then there’s our rose bush, which keeps producing beautiful pink blooms, even in the Midwest in late autumn. Watching my husband and daughter build robots with blocks. Indulging in all the books that I haven’t had time to read. Trampling through a muddy field looking for the perfect pumpkin. Holiday lights sparkling. Standing outside in the cold night to admire the crisp and clear, bright moon.
Take it from me, a lifelong cynic with anxiety issues – finding joy isn’t easy, especially when you’re managing a chronic, unpredictable illness like MS. We have families, jobs, and other commitments that don’t allow us to hide from the world – especially as we dive head-first into the holiday season – which is a good thing because I don’t think isolating ourselves is the answer.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be all sunshine and smiles every day, but try not to overlook the seemingly little things in life. What makes you smile? Laugh? Comfortable? Grateful? Be mindful of these moments. Don’t let them pass by unnoticed because that’s where you’ll find your joy.
So here’s my proposal to you: Join me in my challenge. Get out there and find your joy, your happiness, your gratitude.
I’ll check back in to let you know how my challenge is going. In the meantime, share your suggestions for finding joy – and good luck on your journey!
Christine Brovelli-O’Brien is a writer, mother, former English professor, and MSer. Her work also appears regularly on the What to Expect When You’re Expecting Word of Mom blog. Follow her on Twitter: @brovelliobrien