Building Yourself Up Again

We’ve all been there - life is going well - you laugh, you smile, you show the world that nothing can bring you down. But behind closed doors, you drop the mask. Your smile vanishes and the only thing you feel like doing is curling up under the duvet.

Unfortunately, I am there right now. Forgetting appointments, finding nothing that brings joy aside from sleeping. There is a way out, but it will take some time and effort to get there.

What helped me the most is when I eventually realised that having an emotional dip is normal. You, I, anyone with a chronic illness like MS - can’t be strong all the time. It’s OK to sometimes just… be. When you do get to that dark place, it’s important to not let your emotional dip become a crater. For me, that means taking my journal and flipping the pages until I find an unspoiled list of reminders on how to build myself – my heart, mind and soul - up again.

Have you felt yourself slipping into a dip? If so, I hope the tips below could help you get back on track:

Get to know the new you

This stage is not about accepting an illness just yet; this is about righting your mind and soul, especially during the first few days and weeks after your diagnosis or at the end of a relapse. Although you were dealt a bad hand, remember how strong you once were and know that you will be again. Build yourself up from that point in time, and look forward.

Accept the diagnosis you’ve been given

So you have MS. It’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong and you are therefore not to blame for ending up with this illness. Remember that although your diagnosis might be a speed bump, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. [2]

Forgive yourself

It’s always important to remember that what happened in the past is in the past, it’s over and it cannot be changed anymore. What can be changed is how you look at things that caused anxiety in the past, and use that knowledge to escape the vicious circle of negative thoughts and actions. Stop caring what others think or say about you! Although everyone has their idea of how you should live your life, their thoughts are their problem, and are not your ballast to carry (not always easy, but definitely worth it!)

Love yourself again

If someone looks prettier than you, or if you believe they are more intelligent and have more cars … good for them! Don’t compare yourself to others who seemingly have a better life than you. MS didn’t turn you into a bad person, your character still stands. Your persona might be enhanced by a mobility aid or treatment schedules, but at the end of the day, you are still you. Anyone looking for a perfect girl/woman/man should buy themselves a doll.

Learn how to say “No”

It won’t hurt anyone if from now on if you become a tiny bit selfish. In fact, post-diagnosis I consider it is a requirement if you want to be the best version of yourself that you can. It’s OK to look after others, but don’t lose yourself in all the drama when you need a time-out. On a similar note, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Redefine your support system and don’t let pride get in the way!

Give, give, give!

Also, if you are the kind of person who always gives to everyone while others have more to share, consider taking a break! Giving, doing, urging and other verbs sometimes need to be stopped in their tracks when learning to live with MS. Like my doctor says, “Sometimes you just have to use and abuse your support network just as badly as they abuse yours!” That, I can live with! [3]

Surround yourself with things you love

Whether it is buying new clothes, taking a long walk on the beach or visiting a city you have never been before, do what you love most. In my case, it’s reading books and writing. At this stage I can open a private library! Whether it is an old passion waiting to be rediscovered or a new one, shifting thoughts from inside your mind to an external source does help! [4]

Dark = light

Sometimes you need to go through a dark moment to appreciate the good in life again. However, it is important to know your warning signs and be honest if you feel that you are dealing with more than just a few bad days. Depression is not a bad word, nor is it a dirty word or something to feel ashamed of. I have written about this in the past on Living Like You, and I want to be that guide for you if you need a refuge for your thoughts.

When navigating life with MS, we all need the same acceptance from ourselves or others whether divided by oceans or by language barriers. So, be true to yourself, forgive yourself, and be proud of yourself!

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