Ok, so unfortunately in dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, as is with many other chronic health issues, you can have what is known as a flare-up of symptoms. There can be minor flare-ups that last around 24 hours or less, or they can turn into major flare-ups where they last even longer.
In the latter a lot of times very high doses of steroids (think 1000mg+ for multiple days) via IV are relied on to shut down and reboot the immune system quickly to prevent damage. Damage can look different for each auto-immune disease but for me with MS, the damage I’m trying to prevent are lesions (scarring, essentially) on my brain or spinal cord. I already have a good amount and I’m always trying to keep an eye on episodes so that I don’t accumulate more, which could cause my brain and spinal cord to be unable to send nerve messages to other parts of my body–eventually causing further disability.
I have now had 5 very serious episodes in the last 10 years and I have felt as I was in crisis again even this last week. And so I write this blog post because I so wish I could have read something like this as a reminder when I was going through my own health crisis early on!
#6- Take very good care of yourself physically during this time– try to eat as healthy as possible, drink lots of water and get as much sleep as you can. It will help you more than you could even imagine! Example: my doctor told me in his office earlier this week that I need to be getting as much sleep as I possibly can right now, as I deal with the current episode I’m in. I’m also still doing my ketogenic diet as well, which I believe is helping me too.
#5-Stay positive-this is probably not a good time to listen to the news too much, be on social media more than necessary, be around anything that makes you feel discouraged. This is a time to really stay positive and focus on the GOOD things in life. Example: I keep good encouraging music on in my car so I can be reminded to pray and to think about positive things. I’ve had one particular album playing constantly for the last week with messages like how God is our healer, He is our Father, how He cares for me and is always with me.
#4- Practice gratitude– Anyone who has spent any time around me can probably tell you that one of my top favorite things to do is practice thankfulness. I have found it life-changing over the last 10 years as I have wrestled with my health issues. One of the mottos in our home is: “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” Example: I remember when I was unable to use my right arm for a period of time in 2013, being able to use that opportunity to show my kids that I could still find something to be thankful for. I remember telling them how glad I was that I could still use my legs to walk, I could still see with my eyes. It’s amazing how changing our focus can change us! Even today as I was walking into work this afternoon, I got out of my car and felt how weak and shaky my legs were, but then I was able to remind myself that yeah, my legs are pretty weak and shaky BUT I’m so thankful I can still walk, and even without a cane! I can still move my legs at all! My spirits felt pretty uplifted with that thought as I walked in the door.
#3-Surround yourself with a good support system-DO NOT DISCONNECT OR ISOLATE YOURSELF. Hopefully I made that point clear! 🙂 It is so important to surround yourself with good, healthy people. Ideally these connections would have already been made BEFORE the crisis begins, but called on during the crisis. You will want people by your side who can be honest with you, tell you the truth and truly listen to hear your heart. I know these people are not always easy to find, but I challenge you to pray and ask God to show you who in your life could be that person to you. Example: I have been called “hero” many times during my health journey, but to be honest, I’m not sure that’s fair. I wouldn’t be a “hero” without so many who have stood by my side faithfully supporting me, praying for me, helping me. I think my support system is made up of true heroes, and I am soo grateful for all of them!
#2-Be honest with yourself– this is huge. I’m still learning what this looks like but I believe we can’t properly grieve and move on with our lives into hopefully a place of joy if we aren’t honest with ourselves, and grieve our losses. Loss of health is so huge; it is life-altering, it has shaken me to the core and left me so afraid of the future at times. Don’t be afraid look at your reality and call it what it is, because it is far better than living in denial and not dealing with your pain. #3 (your support system) will also play a huge role in this. Find people who can process with you and help you as you work through your pain and weep possibly at times, over the suffering you’re experiencing. Example: Some of the most powerful times in my own health crisis have been when I’ve been able to be honest and work through some of my pain with close friends in my life. It brought such a sense of relief and peace as I was able to safely share my heart with them and they listened and came close in my suffering.
#1- Lean on God– This is #1 intentionally because we all need something to lean on that is bigger than ourselves. When I’m dealing with fear of my circumstances in life, especially in relation to health, it brings so much peace to my heart to remember that my God is bigger and stronger than me, and He truly has no limitations. Nothing is impossible with Him. Remembering these things keeps me hopeful that no matter how I feel, He holds the whole world in his hands and He is working in my present situation, whether I feel it or not. Example: when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed about life, I like to walk outside at night and look at the skies. It calms me instantly and connects me with God. It reminds me of how powerful he is to be able to hang the stars and the moon in the sky…..and to care for me.
If you do the things I’ve laid out above, I guarantee it will help reduce the sense of powerlessness and hopelessness in your situation, as I find it does with me. It gives me a plan of action and empowers me to begin to find choices and changes I can make in my life, instead of feeling like I am completely at the mercy of my situation.
Finally, if I could speak any word of encouragement to you as you walk through your own health crisis, it would be to remember this truth: This is only a season. Yes, you may be dealing with this issue the rest of your life as I well may be also, but what you’re walking through right now will not always feel this way. There may be hard days but there also will be much joy ahead for you. Brighter days are coming. Believe that.
***Feel free to give me feedback on this post via comments or messages! I’d love to know if you have anything you would add to this list!