women

The unpredictability of MS is one of the hardest things about it. In good days, I feel like I can do anything. I’ve grown a lime tree, a fynbos garden, and a beautiful boy child. I made my first movie and am finishing my first novel.

I’ve also been hospitalized twice. Once because I was numb from the neck down. I now know that massive doses of corticosteroids make me mean and manic, and that I can compensate for proprioception – the inability to feel where you are in space – by focusing on a point in front of me to keep my balance. Which only works when the balance itself hasn’t gone haywire; the first time I was hospitalized my internal gyroscope was intent on tilting the world to my right. Or me to the left. Walls were my friends then, because they, at least, stayed in one place.

Still, I’m in awe of the way my body works, even when it doesn’t. Perhaps especially then, because I stop taking it for granted and marvel when it slowly, steadily, finds other ways to get the signals through from nerves to brain and vice versa.

I believe our bodies have the most amazing ability to heal themselves, if we give them the right conditions to do so. In that spirit of awe and respect, my top three no-brainers:

No-brainer 1: You are not in control

Description: the Serenity Prayer is routinely used by AA

The Serenity Prayer is routinely used by AA

Most of us suffer under the delusion that we can control everything, or at the very least, ourselves.

But there’s a good reason why the Serenity Prayer is routinely used by AA and other addiction recovery programmes: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…”

My addiction used to be “doing”. I squandered energy, pushed myself too hard, burnt out and relit the candles, ignored the warning sighs. Eventually my body made me stop, and acknowledge that the thing I was avoiding all along was my own vulnerability.

No-brainer 2: You are not to blame

The best thing about relinquishing control is that you don’t have to take responsibility for everything that happens to you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your utmost to take good care of yourself.

But if you wake up and you can’t stand up, it’s not because you didn’t think enough positive thoughts or put another carrot in the juicer. It’s because, sometimes, sh*t just happens.

Once you accept this, you know that giving in is not the same thing as giving up.

No-brainer 3: Find your joy spot

Description: Website: msif.org

Website: msif.org

Let me be quite clear: I’m not in any way grateful for this syndrome. Feeling betrayed by your own body is a difficult one. I want to fix the problem, but I am the problem. That still makes me angry and incredibly frustrated.

It also makes me human. It can be hard to connect with joy when you’ve had an existential carpet pulled out from under you. But it’s not only possible, it’s necessary. For me, “healing/dealing” with MS is about remembering how intensely life wants to LIVE.

I find my joy spot most purely in natural spaces. Walking my dogs in fynbos makes me deliriously happy. So does jumping into the icy Atlantic on a sweltering February day. And so does the occasional slice of key lime pie.

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