Hearing about a case of malnourishment within the family or anywhere in the country is very disheartening. The condition is connected to undernourishment, although they are not synonymous since even an overweight person can experience the former. Many seemingly healthy individuals go through it as well due to the nutrients lacking in their foods. The symptoms include anemia, dry skin, and weak muscles – disorders we associate to some illnesses yet rarely to vitamin deficiency.
I’m Heila, and I was diagnosed with MS just two years ago. Since then, people would always tell me not to lose hope and to practice positivity, but none of them has ever told me how. It actually frustrates me when they tell me this, saying something without really knowing what they’re talking about.
I soon realized that I myself had to seek ways to remain hopeful despite my illness. I’ve read about people like me who managed to live a happy life. They spend time with family and even travel with them, and I want that for myself too. I never want to sulk with sadness about something that I didn’t do – it just happened to me. I want to remain hopeful for my husband and my only daughter.
These are some of the ways that I have found and practiced to keep me hopeful and positive despite my chronic illness. I wish that if you or someone you know has MS, this will serve as a guide and inspiration to live the same way I do now.
Ways To Stay Positive Even With A Chronic Illness
- Prepare some positive statements to replace the negative ones. The vital point to remember is to be aware of your thoughts. Once you begin to drift away and think of guilt, anger, jealousy, or hatred, close your eyes, take a deep breath and compose a positive statement that would help you fight and win over the negative thoughts and feelings. “When you harness the power of positivity, it’s amazing the impact it has on your life. It can decrease stress and make every moment worth experiencing,” Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. wrote.
An example would be when your friends invite you over for a party, and you want to go home because it is very cold. You complain and regret why you went out with them, yet come to think of it. If you stayed home, you would stay awake all night watching television, bingeing, and crying over the cheating boyfriend who left you. And then you think, “Thank God that there’s only the cold that I need to tolerate – not the pain and the loneliness.”
- Be Grateful For The Small Successes. With an illness like multiple sclerosis, waking up in the morning feeling very little pain is something to thank for, so if you have a few days like these, be grateful. Smile. Sometimes, we tackle such big issues in life that we forget to appreciate the simple gifts – of family, shelter, television, and chocolates! When you contemplate on your day and you were able to smell the flowers in your garden, take an afternoon walk with your favorite coffee, joined your family for a wonderful dinner, then you have won over your illness – today. Tomorrow is another day, and you will try again. “Gratitude is an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self,” Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. says.
- Take Control Over Your Stress. Everyone, including those who do not have a disease, is not spared from stress. They come in many forms. You may experience them at work, in school, relationships, and in my case, tackling a chronic illness. No one lives a stress-free life, no matter how much protein shake you drink and meditations you do. Andy Tix Ph.D. emphasized that, “In order to respond effectively to life stressors, we must realize we have at least some control—if nothing else, over our attitudes.”
Perhaps you can try and manipulate stress. When you encounter a new stress from a problem, decide whether it is something that you can change or do something about. If it’s something inevitable and there’s nothing you can do to modify it, then it’s really not something to be stressed about. It is a waste of your time, mental strength, and emotions.
Another strategy you can try is to use stress as a motivation. It makes you work harder to get a promotion. It can encourage you to study and get higher grades. And it can push you to fight and be more determined to survive and live happily despite your disease.
If these three suggestions do not work, please do seek help from a mental health professional. You will need all the physical, emotional and mental strength you can get in battling multiple sclerosis or other chronic diseases.
One of the things that you must master at this point in your life is to improve your mental wellness continuously. Take note that your mental health can affect your daily mood as well as your drive to get things done. This is the primary reason why it is essential on your part to focus on how you can improve the state of your mind. Luckily, there are several ways on how you can accomplish this.
Multiple sclerosis is an incapacitating disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The immune system attacks the insulation surrounding nerve fibers causing its breakdown, thus, resulting in communication problems between the brain and areas of the body. “Uncertainty is one of the hardest parts of any progressive and unpredictable disease,” Ivan Molton, Ph.D. said.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Statistics show that about 20% of people with multiple sclerosis have no or only mild symptoms.
Some of the early signs and symptoms could be:
- Balance difficulty
- Muscle aches and spams
- Weakness and fatigue
- Bladder issues
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vision problems
- Cognitive problems
Progression and severity of the disease differs in each person depending on
- age at the initial onset of symptoms
- if on the initial symptoms, just one area of the body is affected
- if it affects mental function, motor control, or urinary control at the initial symptoms
Multiple sclerosis may be an incurable disease, but MS patients can have a lifespan as long as the general population. They just have to live a better life full of hope that their condition will improve because there are people who never lose confidence and never give up doing their best to find a cure. “People with MS benefit from having a comprehensive care team in place, and that oftentimes will include a mental health clinician Talk to your doctor who may be able to help or refer you for services,” Lauren Krupp, M.D., and Robert Charlson, M.D. wrote.
Hope in Stem Cell
The method is still in clinical trial and could be the future for MS treatment. It is a process of applying the patient’s stem cell by injecting it into the spinal fluid to restore limb function. The result of the trials was impressive with reports of improvement in the muscle function only after 24 hours, and after a few days, the patients can exercise and move just like before the diagnosis.
“There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that the effectiveness of such procedures is very good. The proportion of patients having gone through such a procedure having NEDA is unparalleled by other trials and ways of treating MS,” Jan Hillert, MD, PhD states.
Hope in OMS-7 (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis 7-Step Recovery Program)
Professor George Jelinek formulated this program after his diagnosis of MS. This is a lifestyle and diet modification program combined with conventional medicine. This program aims to help people with MS to live a better life – healthier and longer – by reducing the chance of relapse and slowing the progression of the disease. This program gives hope to the MS patients that their function and symptoms still can improve.
Hope in Rehabilitation
Studies and research reveal that disabilities and impairment in function can improve through rehabilitation.
Trans-spinal direct current (ts-DC) is a technique used to promote motor responses by waking up weak muscles or lessening their activity when spastic. This method has resulted in many MS patients increasing their ability to rehabilitate their body.
Hope in Travel
There are people with MS who do travel as their therapy. People with MS have to plan early on so they will be ready and prepared before they travel, especially regarding their medications that they have to bring. They also need to make sure that they inform other people about their illness so that these people will know what to do in case of emergency. There’s no need to worry regarding ambulation because people with MS can go around with a cane, walker, scooter or wheelchair. Travel gives people with MS joy and makes them forget that they have an illness even for a short while. They never let their MS get in the way of enjoying life.
Hope in Meditating
Meditation helps a lot regarding keeping the feelings of uncomfortable tingling and prickling at bay. People with MS start to feel better, motivated, energetic and full of joy in their daily lives. Meditation reduces, if not entirely gets rid of, stress that can very well trigger a relapse.
MS could be debilitating but don’t let it be your end. There’s hope of a better life in every circumstance. You may sacrifice some areas of your life to adapt to a new lifestyle. You can accept this as a challenge and never give up as only you can do it for yourself. It’s never easy, but it is achievable. Just have faith and hope. If some people who have multiple sclerosis can overcome the disease, so can you.
There is no better prevention of chronic illnesses than to stay healthy. Our body has its defense system that protects it from being damaged or harmed by external stimuli or sometimes from internal factors. Defying chronic illnesses is not really a concern for anyone until someone close to us or we, ourselves, are diagnosed with one. “It can be difficult to deal with a diagnosis of a chronic illness,” Wayne Osborne, MD shares.
Did you know that we can actually defy chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and more without trying? It is all about doing things the right way.
Every day, there are things that we don’t really pay attention to. They are our regular routines that could go unnoticed because we consider them normal, but when we do these things the right way or even better, we could make our body healthier and stronger.
What are the usual routines we do that might have a significant impact on our health?
Wake up early enough every day to get the morning sunlight, and its health benefited the body in producing vitamin D which helps in improving bone health and boosting our immune system. Our immune system serves as our defense against any threats to our health.
Our body is made up of 70% drinking any liquid. We may have heard the full benefits of water. Aside from hydration, water cleanses the body and helps in proper regulation of blood in the system. Matthew J. Edlund M.D. says that “It’s easy to stint on drinking outside in summer. It’s not enjoyable carrying water. It interferes with fun things to do. Yet it’s necessary for your well being.”
If you cannot jog every day, make sure to take a walk for at least an hour. Walking can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes as it lowers blood sugar levels, and it also reduces the risk of high blood pressure or any heart-related disorder. Mylea Charvat, Ph.D. notes that, “Exercise has long-lasting benefits for both the body and the mind.” Aside from the physical benefits of walking, it also helps relax the mind and improve the mood.
According to Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, “Man is what he eats.” It could mean that our health depends on what we take inside our body. Everything that we consume has either a good or bad effect on us. We know which foods are good for the body, but ironically, we still choose to munch on the unhealthy stuff like fries, doughnuts, burgers, chips and other junk food. If we want to stay healthy, we should eat right by eating nutritious food like fruits and vegetables.
Sleeping is the time when our body gets to relax and heal. Avoid staying up late and make sure that you get to sleep at least 8 hours. Sleep deprivation can cause severe damage to our health, and we can develop chronic illnesses. Lack of sleep can make us moody and stressed which would eventually cause our body to react negatively as stress is one of the leading factors for most illnesses.
Defying chronic illnesses is all about doing what our body naturally does and doing them the right way. It is about being aware of the things that are good for us and applying them to our everyday lives, avoiding the things which we know can be harmful to our overall well-being.
Why do they say “laughter is the best medicine?” What does this mean? Does laughter cure illness? Having diagnosed with a chronic illness such as multiple sclerosis can turn the world upside down. It can turn the day to night in just a second. One minute, you’re healthy; one minute you’re mortal. “Laughter is good medicine that can raise your endorphins, the feel-good neurochemicals in the body.” Says Judith Orloff MD, psychiatrist and author.
It must be terrifying to learn that you or someone you care for have a chronic illness. It certainly is horrible news, and who could ever find the silver lining to that? Staying positive is somewhat impossible, especially at first. It takes time before this kind of information is processed in our minds and before we can move forward.
How do you manage to laugh or even smile when you find out you are chronically ill?
Smile as often as you can. It promotes positive energy and gives the sense of happiness to you and those around you. A smile is like laughter without the sound, but it is the start of it, so keep smiling, and you will subconsciously have a brighter mood.
Relax Your Mind
Clear your mind from any negative thoughts, stop worrying, and try relaxing your mind. Be silly, and don’t be afraid to look funny. Happy people care less about how they look or sound when they laugh. Just laugh your heart out. Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D. says “The body starts to turn off arousing nerve chemicals, like adrenaline and stops dumping fatty acids and sugar into the bloodstream for brain, muscle, and motor energy. Also, sodium leaves the inside of the body’s cells.”
Be With People Who Make You Happy
Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and happy. These are the people who find humor in everything. They don’t have time to fret over things that don’t matter, and there’s never a dull moment whenever you’re with them.
Think of Happy Thoughts
“Just think of happy things,” said Peter Pan. Think of funny and happy moments in your life. Sometimes, when you think of something funny, you just can’t help but laugh. This is what the quote is all about. Believe in what you can do, and just do it. “Happiness helps people be more competent and productive, and that helps make their country great,” says William R. Klemm Ph.D.
Watch a Funny Movie
There are some funny movies and TV shows that aim to make us laugh. People who make these movies understand the importance of laughter in our overall wellness. We sympathize with people from the movies, and we adopt their emotions thus movies make us laugh with jokes and funny moments.
Try Laughter Yoga
Laughter yoga is a form of physical exercise which aims to help people to learn how to laugh without reasons. It may sound crazy, but people who practice laughter yoga believe that our body knows how to laugh even without the mind telling it to do so. They practice laughing in a manner that it will be like a normal action that it doesn’t have to be triggered externally or through the mind.
Laughter is the best medicine, especially when you are in pain. Chronically ill patients deal with a lot of pain physically, emotionally and mentally. Aside from laughter is scientifically proven to release endorphins which act as the brain’s painkillers, laughter simply gives a sense of happiness and hope during painful and hopeless times, and the best thing about laughter is you will never overdose.
The people who have chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more do not only suffer physically but emotionally and mentally. The thought of mortality and pain can be an emotional torture every day. It is essential that they develop a healthy mind to promote positivity and healing or at least to alleviate the pain.
Art therapy is a method used to promote mental health. Today, it is practiced in hospitals not only for patients with mental disorders but also for patients diagnosed with chronic illness. They, too, need a form of diversion to help them cope up with the physical and emotional stress.
The art mostly used for this kind of therapy is painting where patients are able to make use of colors and shapes to express their state of mind. Art therapy has a lot of benefits for a person’s well-being, healthy or not.
Benefits of Art Therapy to Patients with Chronic Illnesses
Relieves Emotional Stress
Art therapy relieves emotional stress. Chronically ill patients often feel hopeless, and no matter how they want things to be different, they just don’t have control over their situation. Cathy Malchiodi PhD, LPCC discusses that, “Art therapy provides the feeling of control. Individuals reported that art expression helped them focus on the present moment, identify emotional responses and experience connections between emotion and body awareness.” The patients get to choose how their masterpiece would look like: what color and what shape they want to use or however they want it to be.
Provides a tool for Self-expression
To find out that you have a chronic illness may be too overwhelming, and the feeling and emotion are all over the place. “The greatest benefit of art therapy is giving you a healthy outlet for expressing and letting go all your feelings and fears,” Mary Ann Cohen, MD points out. The patient might be lost for words, and this could be an alarming sign that he will have depression. At this stage, the patient needs all the support and help that he could get.
The doctor may recommend art therapy because it serves as a way of expressing emotions that are hard to show and explain.
Promotes a Positive Mind
When we look at a painting, we are able to appreciate the beauty of art, and it helps us relax our minds. “Creating art can take your mind off of whatever is stressing you, at least for a few minutes,” Elizabeth Scott, MS says. Art therapy gives the patient with chronic illness a sense of fulfillment, that he was able to do something wonderful despite a condition that causes limitations.
With all the pain and negative thoughts that the patient endures, art is a way to see the world full of colors and possibilities.
Art therapy gives hope and inspiration for patients with chronic illnesses. It gives them the will to get better and to continue what they do. They are able to appreciate their creativity which is good for their mental and emotional health. When we have a positive mind, the body is encouraged to act with more energy and enthusiasm thus promotes healing.
When we hear the word illness, we often think it only refers to our physical body, but our mental health also plays a vital role in our overall wellbeing. A person can have limitations physically but the mind makes endless possibilities for the day ahead.
People who are chronically ill create a masterpiece in every art because it is not just some painting but the message of pain, despair, hope, and positivity all at the same time.
How do you live life to the fullest if you have a chronic illness? How do you stay healthy when you are unhealthy? What does it feel like living with multiple sclerosis? While some of us are living an active, exciting, and healthy life, some of us are asking themselves these questions.
What are chronic diseases? Chronic diseases are health conditions where the body suffers from an illness which lasted for a long time, especially more than three months. These conditions are progressive and require a healthy lifestyle to prolong life or lessen the distress that comes along with the situation.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease where the myelin sheath or the fatty material which covers and protects the brain and spinal cord is damaged. The myelin sheath is responsible for the proper communication of the nerve impulses from the brain to other body parts of the body, so if the myelin sheath is damaged, the messages from the mind cannot be adequately delivered to the designated receiver.
What causes multiple sclerosis?
It is unclear up to now what the real cause of multiple sclerosis is, although there are still ongoing studies about this medical condition. Multiple sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, a disease where the immune system attacks our own body, but it is still unclear why the immune system attacks its own.
It is believed that multiple sclerosis could be genetic, and if someone from your immediate family was diagnosed with this, you have a higher risk to have this condition as well.
The environment is also believed to play a part in developing multiple sclerosis. Since the damage is caused by our immune system attacking our own body, this condition could be linked to vitamin D deficiency. This vitamin aids in the proper function of the immune system thus could cause or trigger improper tasks of the immune system. “As a chronic disease that involves the immune system, MS has many effects on the whole body that impact quality of life,” Lauren Krupp, M.D., and Robert Charlson, M.D. point out.
Experts also believe that bacterial and viral infections could trigger multiple sclerosis. Viral infections cause inflammation and damage to the myelin sheath, for this reason, it is even thought that this could cause multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty balancing
- Feeling dizzy
- Unexplainable fatigue
- Pain with muscle contractions
- Visual problems
- Sexual problems
- Gait problems
According to Ivan Molton, Ph.D., “Again and again, we hear from our patients that the symptoms themselves may be manageable, but not knowing what the future holds makes it impossible to plan one’s life, work, and important activities.”
Can multiple sclerosis be cured?
There is still no known cure for multiple sclerosis, though there are medications that could help symptoms, slow progression and possible disability.
The risk of having a permanent disability in multiple sclerosis is high, but with the advanced technology and therapies, the severity of impairments is decreased.
What to do if you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?
If you notice symptoms that could mean multiple sclerosis, have yourself checked as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the condition, and if you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, there are several important things to do:
Find a knowledgeable multiple sclerosis doctors.
You need the help of a doctor who has extensive experience in dealing with this condition. Your doctor will plan your healthcare, and the coordination and cooperation are vital in dealing with multiple sclerosis.
“Taking an active approach to the management of your illness can provide confidence when it comes to decisions about changes in treatment. Patients who feel capable should remain as informed as possible about their condition,” Wayne Osborne, MD explains.
Live a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a healthy diet. Be mindful that you are getting all the nutrients that your body needs. Make your body stronger to be able to cope with the symptoms and avoid making unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, staying up late, eating fatty foods and worrying too much.
Stay positive and condition your mind to get better.
Having a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis is hard. A person diagnosed with this condition needs all the help and support that he needs, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
The will to get better is vital in dealing with sickness. The body feels every bit of emotion and subconsciously responds to what we think and feel, that’s why it is essential to stay positive and stick to the thought of your wellness.
Living with multiple sclerosis is a life nobody would wish for oneself and everybody else, especially our loved ones. If someone you know or even you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, make sure that you seek the help of professional and live life with extra caution. Don’t think of it as something to be scared of. Think of it as a responsibility for you to take good care of your body twice as much.
Living with a chronic disease can be scary, especially for those who don’t understand their condition. The only thing that may be circling their mind is that they’re dying. Yes, living with a chronic disease is terrifying, but when you learn to understand your situation, you will discover that life can be great!