When I wrote 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago, I focused on the top-level, must know things that I wish someone had told me but didn’t.
I discussed ideas like how to make your MRIs more comfortable, how your expectations matter, and how to filter out the scary expectations other people have about what multiple sclerosis will do to you.
I didn’t know that the article would be shared over 1,000 times.
If you haven’t read that article, read it here. Now I’m adding to that list because I always knew those weren’t the only things I wish I knew. There are a few more…
1. Ignore fad diets and listen to your body.
This is a big one. There are a million different diets out there (approximately). All with amazing success stories of how people lose tremendous amounts of weight and cured their disease in a week.
Here’s the thing – and I know this idea can be daunting at first: You’re the only one who knows what’s best for your body.
Broccoli doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people do better without meat, others feel good with meat but feel awful when they eat corn.
Work on listening to your body and knowing how it reacts to different foods. Forcing a diet simply because someone else thinks it works will never help you be healthy in the long-term.
Even when a diet says it’s specifically for your diagnosis, if it’s super restrictive chances are you won’t stick with it for long. And the lifestyle change you want won’t happen.
2. Clean food is key.
This one is all-around simple. What works for everyone is eliminating chemicals in our food.
Cutting out sugar, processed food, and anything that has unpronounceable ingredients will benefit everyone.
The name of the game in multiple sclerosis (and any diagnosis) is lowering inflammation in your body and eating whole foods will help you do that. Full stop.
3. There is no “new normal.”
When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, this term was thrown at me by doctors, nurses, friends, family – anyone who wanted to help me feel better about this change. I don’t fault them. Their intentions were good.
But to me, “new normal” meant that I would never have a “normal” life again. The “new normal” life was harder, more restricted, and way less fun.
I wish I had someone tell me that was all crap.
The truth is, there is no “normal” at all.
Life changes happen all the time. We’re always changing our outlook, how we do things and our priorities in life. And most changes aren’t 100% planned – like moving, having kids, falling in love, changing jobs, or losing a loved one.
All of these things happen in life – but we don’t constantly tell ourselves that there’s a “new normal,” We roll with it, make changes, and deal with it the best way we can.
A diagnosis is no different.
It’s another unplanned change – yes it’s a big one – but it’s nothing that takes you out of the game of life. You’re still in it. You’ll still do amazing things.
4. What you think matters.
When I was diagnosed, I first went into action mode. I looked at what I could do, what I could change and how I can live differently to make things better. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I would be stopped in my tracks. My head would spin with fearful thoughts and I felt completely out of control of my life.
I felt like I was stuck on an emotional rollercoaster- one minute pushing forward with a plan, and the next being frozen with fear.
This emotional rollercoaster happened because I wasn’t managing the most important part of my life – my thinking.
What you believe determines everything from how easy it is to make a change, to how good (or afraid) you feel while making it.
Your beliefs are how you can make peace with your diagnosis and your body.
Your thinking determines how much you’re suffering and how confident you are in managing your life.
I eventually learned how to manage my mind about eight years into my diagnosis, but learning this skill at day one would have saved me a lot of grief (literally).
Pay attention to what you’re telling yourself, how kind – or mean- your self-talk is, and what you’re afraid of. Show yourself compassion, forgiveness for the little things, and love.
Literally, breathe. Calming your mind matters (see #4) but calming your body does, too. I wish someone had told me that breathing and meditation weren’t just buzz words. There’s hard science that tells us how important calming our mind and body helps with health, longevity, and peace of mind.
All the things we need when we’re dealing with a diagnosis.
You don’t have to become a yogi or meditate for an hour a day to benefit (but please feel free).
Just 5 minutes of deep breathing has an effect on our body.
I spent a lot of time in “fight or flight” mode – especially right after I was diagnosed. Being practiced at getting out of this state helps decrease inflammation, increase creativity, and allows us to find solutions where we previously thought we had no choice.
Oh – and it’s free.
I eventually figured out all of these things.
I learned to manage my mind, I stopped following crazy diets and simply listened to my body, and I’ve incorporated easy meditation into my life.
But I wish I would have found this inner peace earlier in my diagnosis.
My hope is that this helps you find your inner peace a little sooner than I did.