Kissing Goodbye to MS (Much Stewing)
In my last post, I outlined, using the analogy of Frodo’s journey, my own perception of the struggles I faced on my route to an MS diagnosis. If we revert from fantasy back to the real world, it was Christmas Day, 2013 when everything changed for me. That was the day when I was launched against my will into an abyss of medical proddings and probings, investigations and interrogations. As I began that free fall into what would become a seemingly endless onslaught of specialist appointments, each resulting in ever increasing emotional turmoil and generating far more questions than answers, I had no idea that it would take FIFTEEN MONTHS to land on the solid ground of a definite diagnosis. Not to mention dozens of abandoned hypotheses, ranging from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to shingles to bipolar disorder. I’m sure you can imagine the fun that entailed there but those are stories for another day.
Instead, I’d like to focus this post on dealing with some of those unresolved emotions from the many frustrations that ensued from those months of uncertainty. And who better to take advice from in this regard than my three year old! As the youngest of three, Joshie is already well aware that Life Is Unfair. His definitions of injustice include, but are not limited to, the following:
- being smaller than everyone else (I can empathise here)
- not being allowed to go to school yet
- limits being placed on number of servings of icecream
You get the picture. In his world, the fact Mummy doesn't give him unlimited access to playing Lego Quest on the iPad is no less of a grievance to him than me facing a number of difficult encounters with various health professionals (although I wish I could command the same remuneration rates for my parenting role!). And my does he express his emotions in all the audible and physical glory that only a three year old can. He’ll scowl. He’ll howl. He’ll put his foot down. In fact, he’ll throw his whole body down on the ground in a magnificent display of discontent and defiance. However, to his credit, one thing Joshua excels at, once those negative emotions are released, is Moving On.
My point here, is maybe I need to take that approach on board. I may have been just a little bit miffed over how I was treated last year. (I just lied. At times, I seethed with resentment.) Take it from one who’s been there though that fruitlessly ruminating over the unfairness of past misdiagnoses and other medical misadventures doesn’t improve my life in the present. Furthermore, it takes up far too many mental resources and distracts from what is good. Everyone experiences some form of injustice just like everyone experiences hardship, sadness etc. Accepting that things happened in a less than ideal way is the first step towards Letting Go. But how does one actually achieve this? Releasing emotions is certainly useful, but throwing a tantrum is generally not socially acceptable in those also permitted to vote. Certainly, I have found expressing my thoughts by talking with others or blogging very therapeutic, but I think productive outlets for frustration are very much a matter of personal preference, and could include exercise, prayer, meditation etc.
At various points last year though, I wasn’t yet capable of summoning this level of emotional maturity and yes, I did brood. In these instances, I think that it’s perfectly acceptable to adopt interim distraction measures, and again, Joshie illustrates the point beautifully in the following story. While performing his pre-nap wee in the newly mastered standing up position, my little fella misjudged the strength needed to lift up the toilet seat. Following an overly-enthusiastic flinging up of said toilet seat, he carefully placed his boy parts on the porcelain bar. In the same instant, the toilet seat reached its pinnacle and switched directions for a downwards trajectory. You can guess what happened next. My, did he jump and wail! "It's broken mummy". This particular injury required all sorts of soothing remedies to mitigate the pain: cuddles, kisses, ice pack, and chocolate.
Figure 1: Lessons learned from my three year old - chocolate may not cure everything but it, along with cuddles, is the fastest way to boost spirits in the Flaim family household.
Again as adults, we will all have different and distinct currencies regarding what we find pacifying but I think it is important to recognise ways we can cheer ourselves up when life throws us curve balls that we can’t immediately process. Personally, I’m a sucker for exercise, a massage and shopping, but as it happens, regarding cuddles and chocolate, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
What about you, my readers? When you find yourself stewing over life’s misfortunes, where do you turn to for solace? Do you have useful strategies you can recommend?