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Don't allow MS to consume your life

By Mary Pettigrew

With Shark Week coming up on the Discovery Channel in two weeks, I was reminded of an episode from last year that caught my attention. What does Shark Week have to do with MS? Well, keep reading and you’ll see. 

One program featured personal stories of two men who not only survived being attacked by sharks, which left them both severely maimed, and yet they never gave up hope. One of the men was surfing in Hawaii and the other was spearfishing near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia when the attacks happened. To see what they both endured was intense. Over time and after a lot of physical and mental rehabilitation, they got back in the water. Their strength, mindset, and resiliency were quite powerful to observe. One of the men who lost his leg from the attack said, “I needed to take the time to grieve the loss of my leg, but my focus eventually shifted on taking the next step.” He continued, “I don’t wallow in the ‘what was,’ instead, focus on the ‘what comes next!’ ” 

By no means am I comparing loss of limb from a shark attack to living with MS, but the mental healing process is somewhat similar. I noticed a connection. Life is meant to be lived and no matter what obstacles or setbacks we may face, don’t give up. Allow yourself time to grieve, but after a while, you might want to get back into the water. At least dip your toes. Continue to live life to the fullest because you’re still here and have a live to live – and you can help others when you’re ready. Try getting out of your own head and help someone else, if you can. Sometimes it helps me, and yet sometimes I must remember my boundaries.

After you receive the news, “you have MS,” a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts, and feelings come into play – and this is completely normal. After all, you’ve just been told you now have a disease that has no cure. A whirlwind of emotions can and will take over. Let them. Then process. 

There’s no time limit on grieving, but it’s important to recognize any red flags that could lead to something else.

I wrote an article about the five stages of grief a few years ago and they are indeed applicable to this topic. Once you understand and recognize the stages of grief, then the next step is to figure out what comes next. In other words, try not to wallow in the past, the “what was,” and try not to let yourself live in fear of the unknown. If it hasn’t happened yet, why stress over something that may or may not even happen. It’s normal for humans to feel worried or become stressed and anxious over things we cannot understand and things of which we do not have any definitive answers. Is this normal or is this a habit or personality trait we’ve learned over time? The answer could be both.