His point is that enemies, much more than friends, give us a chance to develop patience and tolerance. Good friends don’t always make us learn these things, but enemies do. They are our teachers.
This applies to MS. MS is our enemy. The Dalai Lama would say that MS is our teacher.
This month I have wondered about that--what have I learned with MS that I might have missed otherwise? I am keeping a list. Today what I am thinking about is resilience--how we learn it through our enemy MS.
MS threatens us by changing how others—and we ourselves—see ourselves. Here is an example. If I become a Syrian refugee, even though I might have been a carpenter or a high school teacher, my new identity is Syrian refugee. MS is that way. When we first get the MS diagnosis we have to learn how to hold on to our ‘before-identify’ while coping with a new situation.
One thing this ability is called is resilience. MS is the great teacher of resilience.
If we don’t learn it, we are more likely to join many other people who have MS and who experience depression—which is three times more likely with people with MS than with others.
Resilience is hugely important to learn. A recent meta-analysis showed that successfully dealing with psychological issues has a positive effect on our symptoms (http://www.msdiscovery.org/news/news_briefs/15648-power-positive-thinking).
We need resilience—not only for our character, not only for our emotional well-being, but because it is also physically helpful.
That’s why I turned to friends with MS to ask them—“How do you keep your positive sense of life?”
The answers aren’t all new to me—but these aren’t just good ideas, they are lived by people who are fun, creative, who are living lives that are unique and strong. There is a vast difference between knowing good ideas and seeing them lived out—like the difference between having a Mozart piece sitting on my piano and actually hearing it played by an artist.
Here is my beginning collection of fabulous ideas for living with resilience after MS enters--
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One person puts MS in perspective: “I think of the other people in this world who have to deal with so much more. I just keep plugging along, with the Grace of God.”
Gratitude is a choice people make, such as “…sitting outside my new house, marveling at God's beauty, feeling blessed because I am part of it,” as one person puts it. Another says, “I am grateful and blessed and I leave it in God’s hands to take care of me. I am thankful to have a name for symptoms that have been with me for years.” Another, “I’m thankful for everything in my life, regardless of what’s responsible for the things and people I have.”
Two people refuse to let MS be theirs. They are adamant! “I won’t let my mind think that I have MS, I won’t accept it!”
Another puts it this way: “I never call it mine. I hear people say, ‘me…’ won’t even put it in an example in the same sentence. Nope. Not mine, don’t want it. I’ll say I was diagnosed with it, but I refuse to own it, nor will I allow it to own me.”
She adds that she finds that family and friends are her great support. “I also rely on my family, my husband and my children, who are my closest friends. My son and my daughter are both strong shoulders when I need someone to lean on. It’s hard sometimes to tell them I’m not feeling well, but they cope—and with their smiles and humor they make me feel better. My friends are my other source of strength and I appreciate them more than they know.”
MS is a great teacher and resiliency is only one of the lessons, but it is huge to learn. Next week -- more ideas from people who are definitely walking the walk!