In January I did 2 things – I was referred to a rehab clinic for a comprehensive review of MS, how the relapses have affected my ability to function and to get some assistance in coping with the disease. I also, as a result of feeling completely overwhelmed, started seeing a therapist.
Make no mistake, both of these things are wise, valuable and useful things to do.
The net result of both of them has been good, but a bit overwhelming. Everyone has emphasized to me that my days of being a brain, trapped in a body that I ignore are over. MS is, in a grand sort of joke, is the Universe’s way of telling me that I need to be present in my body as well as in my brain. I need to put myself first.
The challenge is how.
I feel like I need a sign – since March I have gotten so much better about eating, about drinking water, about resting. I have cut back at work. Putting in breaks for food, for water, to rest have become part of my life, a habit as it were. I say all of this, because I see that there are fewer days when I forget to eat, many mornings I wake up a few minutes before my alarm clock which tells me I am getting enough sleep.
Everyone – the therapist, the OT, the PT, my doctor, my neurologist, my MS Nurse has an opinion of what I should be doing.
Do yoga! Walk more! Practice motions with your eyes closed! Work on your balance! Eat more protein! Slow down! Have your bath earlier in the evening! Set a reminder on your phone to stand up and stretch! Take your vitamins! Do body scans to be mindful of where you hold tension and then release it! Get a better chair for your office! Plan your schedule!
Listen to your body! Listen to your body! Listen to your body!
Some people in my shoes might have been able to encompass all of these things in a few weeks – but I was starting from ground zero.
Possibly I was starting from 20 feet under ground.
Do you know what happens when I listen to my body?
When I do a body scan, looking for tension, I don’t know if I have found it. I have been clenching my jaw for so long that I don’t know what relaxed feels like. I don’t know what feeling thirsty feels like. I am always a bit tired. I don’t know the language my body speaks and it’s a bit overwhelming trying to talk to it, because in addition to feeling moronic, it turns out that after being ignored for most of 36 years, my body is has a lot to say, and none of it is nice. My body is grumpy, and now that it gets a voice, it is using that voice. Loudly.
Most of the things the professionals are suggesting are not once and done suggestions. They are life style changes. Taking my vitamins requires that I remember to do so, and that means forming a habit. It’s not just forming the habit either. It’s about changing my attitude. I am notorious for looking at things like my lunch sitting on my desk, my vitamins sitting on the counter and thinking “I’ll just do this first”. Then I forget.
It’s not just the habit, it’s the thought pattern. I have to start putting on my own oxygen mask first. I have been conditioned to not do this. To work, to take care of others, to do things around the house. I am geared to judging value by deliverable – what have I got to show for my day?
This is a huge change – massive. It doesn’t come easily. Given that I went to see a therapist because I was overwhelmed, adding in more things to do doesn’t help because I can see how I fail to deliver on them. It’s one more thing to beat myself up over.
I’ve had to start pushing back. Telling people that I am working on it, and I’m seeing progress. It’s not empty words. I’ve had to start telling people I’m getting there. And it won’t be fast. But it will happen. It will be habit, and it will continue to happen because it’s habit.
In the interim, I took my my vitamin today. I ate my breakfast before 10 am, and my water bottle beside my computer is half empty, so I have had 16 ounces of water.
That’s enough for today.