Our Guest Blog this month comes from Amy Cave-Ayland.  As a young woman of 33 Amy has been diagnosed with MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Amy tells us how she received the news and how she copes with living with an incurable disease, these are her owns words.

Living with MS (Mental Strength)

“The most challenging situation I have faced in recent years, aside from the fact I’ve had twin boys (which, as you can imagine, is a challenge in itself, albeit, a wonderful one!), is being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I had been ill for some time early in 2016; dizziness, numbness and pins and needles down one side of my body and from the time my symptoms started, being signed off work and waiting to see a specialist, I did the normal thing of someone who battles with anxiety and googled my symptoms. Google is a wonderful thing* (*ahh sarcasm), you become your own doctor and try to diagnose yourself, we all do it, don’t deny it my friends. But in this situation, I’d already diagnosed myself with MS before I’d had the four, rather delightful* MRI scans (*ahh sarcasm again, we really must stop meeting like this), before I’d seen my specialist, who then diagnosed me with MS. I thought that after I’d already diagnosed myself it wouldn’t come as a surprise and just assumed I’d already come to terms with it. It didn’t come as a surprise no, the surprise came in that I had been, in fact, right all along.

I thought I’d be ok, as I’d already convinced myself I had MS, but the surprise at knowing I’d been right the whole time following my self Google diagnosis, was enough to bring me to tears once I’d left the hospital, after all, I had just been told I have, and would have to live with, a disease that is currently incurable. After my little cry, I soon started thinking positively, which for me, is a rarity. The type of MS I had been diagnosed with was called Relapsing Remitting MS, meaning my symptoms would either fade away completely, or in my case only partially, but would be prone to relapses. This, as opposed to the progressive forms of MS where symptoms get worse as time goes by, was a plus in my eyes. It’s the learning to live with the symptoms that I have and the uncertainty as to when, or if, a relapse will strike that I struggle with. But I’ve tried to keep my positive head on (another struggle of mine) and decided to just simply accept that I have an incurable disease, I can’t do anything to make this go away completely, all I can do is read up on how to alleviate my symptoms; exercise, eat well, take certain vitamins, rest when my symptoms are bad – in short, take care of myself. In reality, it’s actually made me a healthier person. Another thing I did early on, which I’ve said I would do from the start is to OWN IT! Not let MS own me. So I thought for a minute, that’s literally all it took – a minute – and decided to rename it. And that’s what I’ve done. I don’t suffer with MS. I have MS. And MS, to me, is Mental Strength. That’s what I have. I have Mental Strength. And I’m proud of it.

Overcoming my diagnosis is an ongoing part of my new life but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process and realised how strong I am as a person, maybe not physically but mentally and that’s what counts. I’ve also learnt to appreciate the life I have, you can’t change what cannot be changed but you can change your outlook. You can change how you react to it. I used to be a person who worried about the future and what could happen, but this has taught me to take every day as it comes.

It’s the acceptance that’s made the difference. So I feel dizzy from time to time, I’m learning to live with it. I have pins and needles in my right hand constantly, they’ve become part of me. My right leg gets numb sometimes and gives way without warning, it makes me walk with a gangster limp! It’s all good! I have to put my own positive spin on it.

I’ve got Mental Strength after all and Mental Strength can get you through anything.”

I love Amy’s observation that her health has actually improved because of the MS, what wonderfully inspiring evidence that having something like MS isn’t the end of the world.

If you have an inspiring story of how you have coped with a life changing situation I would love to hear from you.  As a therapist I can help you adjust to situation, but as I’m sure you will agree, most helpful of all is knowing someone else has been through the same challenge and is OK.


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