At first glance, my life seems anything but balanced. I am a wife, mother of two-under-three and have a fulltime job, and a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. How on earth have I been able to find a semblance of balance with all of these balls in play? Am I crazy to still be working? Am I afraid that I am going to let the really important balls (family & health) fall? Yes, of course there are times when I am afraid of what the future might hold, but that fear is present in everyone. I’m going to let you in on a secret: there is no one thing that brings balance to life.
If you think of balance as the act of balancing responsibilities on a scale, then family is the most important piece of mine. Babies and toddlers cause stress, but provide so much joy and purpose. The responsibility my husband and I have been blessed with to raise little humans still amazes me. Our children also take a lot of energy, which, because of MS, is something I am never sure I will have on any given day. Enter my parents. Some people use day care or babysitters when at work outside of the home. While my husband and I are both at work, we use grandpa and “Ga-Ga.” Having extra help from family means that I have the time I need to get the rest I need (fatigue is one of my main symptoms). If not for my parents, I would be a zombie. If this type of support is not available then a friend or paid caregiver could be the way to go. Having times of respite for myself has made me a better parent and more fully present for my family.
Work is another piece of my balance but I am certain that the “9-5” is no longer an option for me. That is ok. When I was diagnosed with MS, I was working in an office all day and would regularly take my lunch in my car as I needed to sleep. I was relieved to have a reason for my fatigue but even happier to find a more flexible position in my company. Although business development or sales positions are not what most would consider low-stress, they can be quite flexible in when and where you work. I have been open with my boss about my needs and she has been accommodating, which has decreased work-related stress. If I need to take naps midday, I am able to. There have also been times when my neurologist has strongly suggested taking a few days off because she could see that my symptoms were flaring because of work. In those moments I step-back and evaluate what I really must take-on and what can be delegated or just skipped. It is okay to say no.
Coming to terms with the fact that MS is now a part of what I have to balance, brought a sense of balance in itself. I accept that I will have good days and not-so-good days. While I used to try to do everything myself, I now allow the help of others so I can rest when needed and have some energy to keep up with my kids. I do not allow guilt to creep in and do not compare myself to anyone else. Exercise has also brought literal and figurative balance for me. I am thankful to not currently have mobility issues, so go on daily walks, practice yoga, and lift weights. I know I must be mindful to not overdo it with physical exertion and that is part of finding balance; knowing what works for YOU.
The most important thing to remember is that MS is just one piece of what you have to balance. At times, an MS symptom will flare and tip the scale one way, but the scales will eventually tip back to a balance. The balance may look different than before, but that is part of life now. Sometimes the balance needs to be “you” heavy – you need to figure out how to be okay with that, even if other people don’t understand. Remember to not let too many different things have too much weight at the same time. I recently read that you can have it all—if “IT” also includes a nervous breakdown. When I feel my balance tilting I have become more mindful of making adjustments so said breakdown does not occur. Balance is a process and I am thankful that I now understand the importance of only giving space on my scale to what is truly important.