Religion and MS: My Journey

When we’re going through a rough patch during life with a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis, how often do we lift our eyes to the sky and ask for some divine intervention?

We each live with our own belief system, our own set of behaviours that make us feel strong or in dire need of support. Some find support from our personal networks, others from those reaching out offering to lend their help with our physical battles, and some find support from our chosen religion or faith.

Let me preface the following observations by mentioning they are built entirely on my personal experience. Everyone has their own path when it comes to faith, and this is just me sharing mine.

After Diagnosis

When you’re first diagnosed, you are overwhelmed with emotion. You may feel elated because you finally know what’s wrong with you, or you may feel that your life as you once knew it is over. Any emotion, anywhere on the spectrum, can hit you at any time. After all, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is a defining moment in your life.

When I was diagnosed, being a practicing Christian was not a large part of my life. However, I was (and still am) quite interested in theology. Around the time of my diagnosis, I was reading Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, and its background story made me think more deeply about religion in my own life.

A tumultuous three-year period followed my diagnosis when I lost five family members and went through a bout with a nasty superbug. I didn’t feel supported by my belief system at the time. Half of me wanted to believe in a higher power, and half of me had complete faith in science alone. But support was what I needed.

A few months later, during a conversation with a pastor, I talked openly about that lack of support. I said, “I’ve never really asked myself the big ‘why?’ question after my diagnosis, but I want to ask you why God would allow such heartache.”

His response still shocks me to this day. “Perhaps you needed to repent for something you did in your life,” he said. I was blown away by his response and decided then and there that this particular type of religion was not my cup of tea. Despite his answer, my love for religious history goes on, and I found a new belief within myself.

How to Stay Positive

You can learn to be positive and hopeful, with or without religion. I know that I did. One phrase I love is, “Love your life more than your pain.” Of course nobody loves being in pain, but this saying reminds us to stay positive and savour the life we have. I have found that speaking in a positive way about my life and my MS has made a huge difference.

Everybody has innate courage, so try to follow this rule, and given time, you will find a new type of self-belief you can lean on. Whether your belief system has changed dramatically (as mine has) or stayed constant, you owe it to yourself to keep thinking life is worth living.

Finding Your Strength

When you have a chronic illness, you need an almost chronic amount of courage. My own need to go on is simple: I am not only leading my life, but I exist because and for others. Whether religion helps me with this or not, I simply cannot give up.

No matter where you find strength, in your religion, in nature or in something else altogether, remember that quite often, you save yourself. If your religion doesn’t listen or help you move forward, at least you know that when times are tough, you can find positivity everywhere.

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