Acceptance is embracing who you are right now
Acceptance and I have a rocky past. When I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2002, I experienced shock, fear, a little bit of self-pity and finally resignation - but never acceptance.
After several months of uncertainty, doctors in disagreement and endless testing, I was relieved to have a definitive diagnosis, but I had naively believed that there would be protocols in place to treat me and I’d get better.
I have MS, now what?
When I was first told I had MS, I didn’t really understand what it meant for my future. I was blissfully unaware that my world would be forever changed. I was prescribed medication that would only delay whatever was going to happen but would not cure me.
I instantly felt like I was abnormal or faulty. I asked about complementary medicine options and was told they didn’t work. Without an option to pro-actively try to help myself, I went from hopeful to defeated just like that.
It’s overwhelming and unnerving to learn that you have an incurable disease. Suddenly life feels divided into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Every decision and every action you take after that is shaped by that knowledge. An invisible veil of uncertainty follows you around and casts a shadow on everything you do.
For years, I quietly dealt with symptoms and relapses while my life turned into a silent struggle. I could no longer do all the things I once could, but I would not admit it. I pushed myself to the point where it was all or nothing. I could participate in things but then had to recover for days. I began to do less, cancel more and I felt very alone.
Denial is self-destructive
Pretending everything is okay takes a toll on the body and mind. Not allowing space to grieve for the way things were or for the things lost along the way can cause pain and anxiety and keep you stuck in whatever story you tell yourself.
I didn’t let myself plan for a future I wasn’t sure I’d get. I lived day to day, going through the motions, planning for the worst, and hoping for the best.
What what is vs what if?
Instead of wasting time and energy constantly thinking about scary things that had never happened and possibly never would, I learned to let it go. The fear and uncertainty I had allowed to creep into my life was holding me back from being who I wanted to be. Just because I had a disease didn’t mean I had to live as though I was sick. I needed to stop looking behind me and focus on what was ahead.
Adapt to thrive
The reality of living with an incurable, unpredictable disease means learning to be flexible and to let good, be good enough. Letting go of how we think things should be and accepting things how they are right now is fundamental for personal growth. You adapt so that you can move forward.
Acceptance is not giving up
Acceptance means that you recognize that at that moment in time, you can’t change certain things, so you make a choice to learn how to live with them.
Acceptance is a gift to yourself
By learning to focus on what you can control and releasing the rest, you permit yourself to see possibilities instead of obstacles. This allows for new beginnings.
Self acceptance strategies
- Acknowledge feelings of anger, fear, regret and grief.
- Visualize what your life would look like if you let these things go.
- Give yourself the opportunity to see what you have gained from your experience.
- Make a list of what you’re good at and celebrate your strengths!
- Create attainable goals that will bring you fulfillment.
- Focus on new things to experience and enjoy.
- Acknowledge your positive impact on those around you.
- Remember you are the same person you’ve always been.
Embrace who you are
There is a feeling of empowerment when you learn to appreciate and value yourself. You begin to view life in a more positive state of mind and the weight on your shoulders feels a little lighter. You realize that you can control how you react to your circumstances and that nothing is inevitable.
Written by Traci Thau
Traci Thau was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in 2002 at age 35. She is the founder of MS Wellness Project, a nutrition and lifestyle blog established to inspire people living with Multiple Sclerosis to find balance in the areas of their lives affecting mental and physical health.
Traci is a MS group leader who manages an online private support group designed to encourage members to share their stories and experiences to learn to better manage living life with a chronic illness in a positive and safe space.
She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach and lives in NJ with her husband and two cats. She hopes to encourage and motivate others in the MS community to find their inner strength and to empower them to create the life they want to live.