Long before we had a diagnosis, Debbie struggled with unexplainable physical problems. It began over two decades ago, when she experienced a problem with her vision. The doctor thought this had been caused by the reflection of sunlight on the hood of the car while she was driving. At unexpected times, a spot would interfere with her vision and she would have no control over this.
A few years later, when their son arrived, Debbie was very worried about caring for him because sometimes she would bump into a door jamb when she was walking or suddenly drop an item. She fears was tied to a lack of control.
It was difficult watching my sister go through the assessment process. She had a spinal tap, repeated appointments with specialists and a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Most of these episodes resulted in disappointment and more bad news. Again, Debbie and the family were faced with lack of control.
Debbie's physical health has deteriorated from those first days when she would bump into the door jamb to the point where she has no movement in her body and lack of control of most of her functions.
Sometimes, when we face losses or have independence taken from us, we need to consider the things that we do have control of and change our focus appropriately.
There are several areas in which healthy control can be used to counteract physical limitations:
- Decision-making: Even if you cannot control your environment, you can help to plan situations, events and daily activities. For example, Debbie decides what television programs she will watch, what they will have for meals and how holidays will be celebrated...
- Relationships: Although speech patterns may be hampered with MS, personal visits, internet and telephone contact can help to maintain contact with others. Debbie is an excellent friend who is loyal to those she cares about. She encourages and supports them.
- Advocacy: For years, Debbie helped to organize a community MS walk, sold items to help fund research and advocated for medications to be covered by the provincial drug plan. All of this was done through verbal communication.
- Attitude: Each of us has control over our thoughts. Our thoughts direct our attitudes. Thinking about hope, life and blessings helps to chase away openings for depression and anxiety.
I have never personally experienced MS but have had a wonderful example of how this illness affects individuals and those who care about them through my sister. I don't pretend to have answers for dealing with this disease but I do know that no matter who we are or what we face in life, it is healthier to focus on what we can control than on the things we cannot control.