Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas

It has been a couple of weeks since I have posted on my blog. I'm taking a break until the new year. I did, however, want to take a moment to wish my readers a VERY Merry Christmas!!!

A Very Merry Christmas

It has been almost a month since I last posted. I was being all thankful during the month of November and now I find myself 4 days from Christmas and I am again feeling thankful. Thankful for my friends and family, thankful for my home and my cat, thankful for everything.

I have fallen off the training wagon until about a week ago, and fallen off the healthy wagon months ago. I guess I have fallen off the blogging wagon too. This is where I acknowledge that I am going to take a break from blogging until after the new year.

I wish you all the most delightful Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

People First

I was blessed with participating in meaningful volunteer opportunities at a young age. It all started with confirmation hours in eighth grade... I went on every trip to the soup kitchen and the Christmas wrapping days, I also signed up to help people with disabilities participate in recreational activities. And so began my first lesson on people first language. Perhaps you have heard of it? It is that whole idea that when you are introducing or talking about a person, you should always address them by name first. So for instance, if I were talking about my favorite TV show, and I wanted to talk about Max and his disability, I would introduce the topic by saying something like: Max, the boy with asperger, NOT: the asberger boy Max. This language has become so common to me, even writing the second statement makes me extremely uncomfortable.

So, I was having a discussion about how people hang flags in front of their houses, or put bumper stickers or messages on the back of their cars. We were discussing the motivation behind such displays, and this is where I tell you we put WAY to much thought into all of this!!! Anyway, this all came up because a truck was driving down the road with the ten commandments written on the back of it's vehicle, and it lead us to a broader discussion of those bumper stickers and flags I mentioned earlier.

It got us talking about how we perceive people we don't know, when the first thing we are introduced to is that one piece of them they put on display. We had differing theories, but this made for a more substantial and meaningful discussion. It also made me delve deeper into my thoughts about disclosing I have MS to people. First I want to say that I haven't made a ton of new friends since I have been diagnosed with MS. As a matter of fact, there is only one notable new person in my life, since I have been diagnosed. I made the conscious decision to not tell this new friend that I have MS right in the beginning. It simply wasn't relevant... And then she saw my shot, after I had known her for several months. This was the point in which I disclosed the fact that I have MS. It was an interesting conversation in which she told me she was going to ask if I had a stroke or something because my eye was droopy and she saw me stumbling. I laughed, we moved on, and we sometime talk about the fact that I have MS, but we primarily don't, because that isn't all I am... Or is it?

I don't care who you are, or what people say... When you are told you have some sort of chronic disease, regardless of the prognosis, there is a period of time when you simply can not live in a world where the people first language makes sense for yourself. What does this mean? Since I have been diagnosed, MS simply comes up first. Why is this? Because I give it that power. I'm not saying this is right, and I'm not saying this is how I want to live in the long term... I'm simply saying that it is!

I have recognized this, and it is precisely why I have my MS free months. I do that so I can reacquaint myself with, well, myself. It is also the time I give the most amazing friend I have known, a break from my meandering about MS. Unfortunately, this month has not been declared MS free, because I had my annual check up, and so it has been the center of my world with her again... Is this fair? Nope, but again, it is...

Anyway, because of all that I mentioned above, my relationships with other people have been tested. The most important people have become even more important, and I think they all know that. The most important relationship in my life, my relationship with myself, has been tested in the most dramatic way, and although I have my daily struggles, I know that at some point I will live in a world in which I can view myself through the lens of people first.

For now, I embrace and love any person who is willing to process through my struggles with MS, so I can get back to that place! Remember that those relationships that challenge you the most are the ones that give you the most reward!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Transforming Your Fears

I never realize how truly lucky I am until something very small happens and it sheds light on everything. One of the scariest symptoms I have with this thing called MS is my choking from time to time because I can't swallow properly. I remember the first time it happened and it really scared me. It was the final day of my jury duty for a murder trial, it was my birthday and also the day before Thanksgiving. It was about 8 years ago, actually.

The story goes as this, I was driving home from Jury Duty. I was in a crummy neighborhood on the southside of Chicago and I was eating a snack. The courthouse was not known for providing good food during lunch, nor was it known for its safe surroundings. Anyway, it was a cold rainy night, I was snacking on something and all of a sudden I was gagging on my food for some unknown reason. I wasn't known to carry my cell phone all the time back then, and my mind went to the worst place. I was going to choke and pass out at a stop light, someone was going to break into the car and steal everything, and I was going to get hurt... Silly I know!!! 

Back to the story, I actually thought I was choking because I was so sick over the trial that it was impacting me physically. I went home to a bunch of pizzas and cake, which I was extremely scared to eat because I was choking on everything. I choked down, literally, a couple pieces of pizza and some cake, and kept my insanity to myself. I figured it would go away once I quit thinking about the trial, and then it didn't... I simply kept a big glass of water near by to help me in the event I choked. And then one day, several months later, it was gone, no choking!

One of my best traits is that I am optimistic, except when it comes to my health that is. Everything is a big deal when I have an ailment. Not sure why this is, but it is. Anyway, recently I have been having trouble swallowing again, it has come and gone over the years, but this year it has been particularly bothersome. The moment it bothered me most was when I was in the MRI tube last night. I was laying motionless with my head strapped down, less than desirable music beating in my ears and the MRI machine making its typical banging noises. Saliva was gathering in my throat and I couldn't swallow. I, of course, went to that place where I was freaked out and figured I would choke on my spit and they wouldn't notice until they pulled me out of the machine 45 minutes later to inject the dye in my IV. 

And then I started channeling my best friend who always reminds me to chill out and take a step back. Next thing I know, I am still choking on my spit, but I'm not going to die anymore, but instead be a little uncomfortable for a short period of time. This is the same friend that reminded me, the day I was diagnosed with MS, that the only difference between the day I was diagnosed and the day before was that I had new information.

What I am really trying to get at here is that we have the power to transform every moment with our minds. We get to choose our emotional reaction (most of the time, I do like to cry A LOT) to physical circumstances. While I was hanging out in that MRI machine, I could have continued freaking out over my inability to swallow, and you know what? The problem would have likely gotten worse second after second. They would have had to pull me out of the machine and start all over again. A little positive thinking brought me back to earth. My swallowing problem certainly did NOT go away, but it also didn't get worse.

The reason I tell you this is because the power of the mind and the power of a friend's words can really make a difference in the long run. I am not always careful with my words, actually, I am never careful with my words, but there is likely good intention behind my words. Because of this, I listen intently to others because I know when they share information with me, it has the power to positively transform moments in the future.

Listen intently to your friends, as they may be saving you from an anxiety fed over reaction to an MRI machine in the future!