When you start reading about MS, one of the first things you will notice is the abundance of advice on how to live your life, and more importantly how to avoid stress. Although this is a wise sentiment, we all know how hard it can actually be. How do you avoid something that happens naturally every single day?
With so many people telling you activities, thoughts, and people to avoid if you want to stay stress-free, you can’t help but wonder what activities are actually good for you anymore. As long as you can, you stay in the workforce to make a living, but should you actually be doing time-consuming and draining things outside of work? Is it responsible to want to do them? Will people think you’re being reckless? How do you know what’s best?
When I was diagnosed with MS, all these questions kept running through my head. I wondered if I should stop being involved in community plays and musicals. I thought about how stressful the final stages of any production are and how little sleep you get between setting up the stage, performing and taking down the stage. Would the strain cause flare-ups or fatigue? Should I give it up?
Then another life-changing decision came my way: A colleague of mine needed to give away her two cats. Since I had met the cats and we’d gotten along quite well, she asked me if I was willing to take them on. I love all creatures, great and small, and my partner and I had always wanted to have two cats and a dog. I was excited about the prospect, but then I started thinking – was I healthy and able enough to take on this responsibility? Admittedly, my symptoms so far had never been debilitating. Apart from nasty migraines, I could still function okay. But what about later? The cats were 8 and 9, so they would hopefully be a part of my life for a very long time. Would I still be able to care for them if my symptoms got more serious?
Although all of these seemingly unanswerable questions were a constant weight on my shoulders, I eventually reached a conclusion: As long as I still thought that I could do it, there was no reason not to try! Maybe my condition would one day prevent me from doing the things I enjoyed, but for now I refused to let that drag me down. I would cross that bridge when or if I came to it.
So the answer to all these questions is: Do what you love. Don’t let your worries about what MS might do stop you from pursuing your dreams. There’s no point in chickening out of something before you’ve even tried it! Although my newly adopted little fur balls keep me up many nights, caring for them has given me so much and has actually helped with my depression. Similarly, directing plays and appearing in them is exhausting and takes a great deal of strength, however the rush of the first round of applause makes up for it – with a vengeance. At the end of the day, I will continue doing what I love until MS actually stops me from doing it, I won’t let fear dictate my life, and most importantly I will do what I love and I won’t be afraid.