Have you just been diagnosed with MS? Are you in the process of being diagnosed?
It can feel really overwhelming at first, but I can honestly say from someone several years down the line, it will be ok. I mean, YES, you are in for a change and some of those changes may not be what you expected or had planned, but things will get better and life will continue. You will get used to having MS, and you will adapt and find a new normal
I would have loved to have someone tell me that it was going to be ok, and give me some tips and tricks that would have made my life easier when I was first diagnosed. So here are a few things that I have found useful and maybe you will too:-
Start writing a bullet journal or health journal
A lot of my friends do this, although I am useless at keeping on top of mine. They keep really fancy ones, I just keep notes of my symptoms day to day and that’s enough for me to manage. It’ll help you track patterns in your symptoms, and will be useful when you next visit the consultant.
Make sure that you build a good network around you
It’s best to have a variety of people that you can reliably connect with – MS can feel really lonely sometimes. Know who you can reach out to for support and when. It can be hard to ask for help, but people are there for you and want to support you. I know that I have my friends and family, I have my doctor, MS Nurses, consultant, neuropsychologist, physiotherapist and several other health professionals… and social networks such as Shift.MS and MS Society for connecting with other MSers. Your list will be different to mine, and will evolve over time. And remember, no man is an island –
Do some research into the disease
This is an individual thing, but I have found that being informed about my disease, why it happens and the available treatments has helped me manage my anxieties. It isn’t a disease that is easy to predict, and I have found that difficult at times. Being able to keep up to date on the current research has been helpful to me personally. A word of caution – choose your sources carefully because not everything you read is true.
Don’t give up on exercise
For ages after I was diagnosed, I was unable to continue my normal exercise routine as I lost a lot of mobility. However, exercise is really good therapy for MS and improves mental and physical health. I am not suggesting you start running marathons (although I know a few MSers who have taken up running since their diagnosis), but even gentle chair based yoga stretches have been shown to improve outcomes in MS patients.
Control the risk factors
There are some things that we can do to improve our MS symptoms. I am not qualified to give medical advice (obvious disclaimer), but it has been demonstrated that stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet (there are some MS specific diets that some people swear by) with reduced salt, taking Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D supplements (and some report taking Biotin in high doses) have positive impacts on people with MS. I personally try and limit fatty meats, and I don’t tend to eat much dairy. I also take a whole bucket load of supplements… whether it helps or not, I couldn’t say for sure but I feel better for trying.
Not all medicines need to come from the hospital/doctors surgery. I am a really big believer in general wellness and mindfulness. Yoga, massage (including self massage) and meditation have been really beneficial to reducing my pain, alleviating spasticity and helping me deal with the stresses of a chronic condition.