In my last blog I briefly talked about the 'what ifs' that can sometimes consume our thoughts and worries. After my initial diagnosis, the 'what ifs' did dominate my every thought and it did take me about a year to find ways to manage them.
Lets get the 'what ifs' out of the way then with a bit of a Top 10 (in no particular order)!
1. What if I end up in a wheelchair?
2. What if I lose cognitive function?
3. What if we need to modify the house to accommodate a wheelchair?
4. What if I have to stop working?
5. What if I need to come out of the MS closet?
6. What if I bump in to someone I know at an MS info night?
7. What if my next relapse is a really bad one?
8. What if my medication doesn't work as effectively as it should?
9. What if I die young (this was my first thought when diagnosed)
10. What if people don't understand my invisible symptoms and think I'm making it all up.
By the way, I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, so as silly as some of these questions may seem, sometimes your mind just takes over and there's no reasoning with it!
For the first year of my diagnosis I'd say I went to bed every night with these thoughts fighting for attention. Within 9 months they were taking over and I was letting my MS take over too, which I certainly didn't want. That's when I decided to see a psychologist; to help me shift focus from the elements of MS that are out of my control, and to focus on the elements of the disease that I do have control over. I didn't give myself a time limit for sessions, I just thought I'd continue on until I felt satisfied that I could best cope with MS and address my panicked thoughts.
After about 4 months I was satisfied that I was in the right frame of mind to still acknowledge my MS, but not let it rule my life. We talked about all of the 'what ifs' and we addressed each one to my satisfaction. Most of the answers came back to 'we can cross that bridge if we come to it' and worrying about it in the meantime won't actually change the outcome. If it happens, it happens, and that's when you deal with it. Adopting this attitude has really helped me deal my negative thoughts, and focus on the 'now'.
Living in the moment, and not the past or future, was something I probably scoffed at a few years ago. It's so much easier to say "easier said than done!" but living in the moment isn't actually that hard to do at all. Put simply, living in the past doesn't change the past, forecasting the future doesn't change the future, so the only thing worth worrying about is the NOW. What can I do NOW to help myself, to get through the day, to live my life? I certainly don't want my life to be one big worry-fest, that's not productive at all. And the majority of my 'Top 10 worries' can be addressed and managed if need be. Of course there are considerations that come into play with preparing for the future, especially with things like financial and work security, and as I mentioned earlier, it's also important to address the things that I do have control of with my MS.
I didn't expect this blog to be so lengthy, so I might go in to the things that I've changed and implemented to ensure I'm doing the most I can for managing my MS in a future post (without trying to forecast the future of course - ha!).
I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has also addressed the 'what ifs' and how you've done that, as well as perhaps sharing a Top 5 or Top 10 of 'what ifs' that have, or still do, occupy your mind.