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Home > MSAA Publications > The Motivator > The Motivator: Fall 2007 > Stories to Inspire

Stories to Inspire

A Time for Everything – Including Rest

Written by Barbara P. Marchant

Do you know that January is often a difficult month for people with MS? This is a time when disease flare-ups occur more frequently. Do you know why? A combination of factors is probably involved, but one of them could surely be the stress we go through during the holiday season.

Photo of Lita Higginbotham, Bonnie Brothers, and the author, Barbara Marchant Getting into the Holiday Spirit
Friends Lita Higginbotham, Bonnie Brothers, and the author, Barbara Marchant, celebrate the holiday season.

We are all "super busy" around the holidays. We find ourselves visiting relatives and attending parties, not to mention the gift wrapping and cards to do. There are a million things that HAVE to be done and we just overdo. I would guess that we are all guilty of doing too much. It just goes with the season, right?

But those of us who have MS know there is usually a price to pay for overdoing things, and sometimes that price is rather high. Being stubborn like I am, I had to learn this the hard way.

I started overdoing things long before the holidays, and continued on until my MS stopped me in my tracks. My husband told me I worked very hard for this setback; I "earned it" so to speak, so I truly wasn't surprised. But it came at a most inopportune time.

Let me explain. I was not only busy with the usual holiday activities, but I was also busy pursuing my dream of writing a book. This has always been a lifetime desire for me. In all honesty, I never thought I could really write a book, but then a good friend of mine gave me the push I needed. She told me to stop saying "I don't know how," and just do it! So I took her advice and began writing. As the pages began adding up, so did my self confidence.

Getting back to overdoing things during the holidays, I was right in the process of working with a publisher to finish my book, when my MS raised its ugly head. Yes, this was an inopportune time!

I was forced to go on intravenous steroids. On top of that, I woke up one morning almost completely blind. One eye could only see shadows and the other eye was extremely blurry. My hands shook and my fingers could not stay on the keyboard. Even my legs would not cooperate, so I was back in the wheelchair. (Thank God for adaptive equipment!)

While this was the setback I "earned," I didn't let it stop me. I called my publisher on the phone and explained that I could no longer read email, so after that I got the instructions verbally over the phone. I used a magnifying glass to make corrections, resubmitted the necessary files, and the book came out just fine.

So the lesson is: if I can write a book and get it published with so many problems – from loss of sight and mobility, to suffering from "brain fog" and the jitters – then perhaps my story will help to inspire you to pursue your dreams as well. With MS, we may need to make adjustments...to what we want to do and how we plan to accomplish it, but the important thing is that we continue to work toward our goals. In the words of my friend...just do it!

Can you guess what my New Year's resolution is for the year? I've decided that I WILL listen to my husband and set my goals at a more leisurely pace...I'll refuse to do and be everything to all people at the same time...and I must learn to say "no," dropping some of the activities I enjoy, making sure I get enough rest.

I wish all of you well in the New Year and I hope you continue to pursue your dreams and goals. Just be sure to plan your activities carefully and give yourself plenty of time for rest!

Barbara's book is called Dance On and can be ordered online at www.amazon.com and www.borders.com, ISBN: 1-4196-5168-4. It is also available from MSAA's Lending Library (please see page 48 for ordering information).

Five Suggestions to Help Keep the Holidays Happy

With the holidays right around the corner, readers may benefit from the following helpful tips from Executive Career Coach Rosalind Joffe, MEd. The main idea is to plan ahead, set priorities, and pace yourself...and you may want to think about these strategies before the holiday season even starts.

Think about the Holiday Season in Advance
For some, the holiday season starts on October 31st with Halloween...and doesn't end until the last Valentine's Day card is handed out on February 14th. "That is a long period of time to be on the go, especially for someone who has MS, " states Joffe. "The key is to identify which activities are important to you and focus on fully participating in those."

Think about What You Want
Living with MS or any type of chronic illness forces one to be more aware of what his or her limitations are. Sometimes goals and desires will need to be adapted, especially around the holiday season. Joffe explains, "Set goals and desires for yourself; do you want to attend a lot of parties, or spend quiet time at home with your family? By thinking of your goals and what you want to get out of the holidays, the season will be more enjoyable."

What are the External Factors You are Facing This Holiday Season?
Whether you are a parent, spouse, friend, or even a care partner, you will need to think about the expectations that loved ones are going to ask of you during the holiday season. People need to realize what you can and can not do. "There is a lot of pressure around the holiday season to attend a friend or coworker 's party," says Joffe. "It is up to you to prepare yourself for these expectations; to attend every event, or spend extra time with family. " Joffe continues, "You have to be selective in what you do, you can't be all things to all people."

Be Kind to Yourself
Getting caught up in the spirit of the holiday season is very easy, which tempts people to do too much. Joffe emphasizes that one key factor is to watch for signs of exhaustion or stress. "Listen to your body, pay attention to how you are feeling," explains Joffe. "Plan and prioritize what you have to do, so you do not overextend yourself. The better you feel, the better you will be able to meet your expectations."

Take Time for Yourself
You need to have some time set aside each month to "recharge" during this hectic time. "Individuals with MS need to take time for themselves," states Joffe. "If possible, try to come up with one day each month to dedicate to you, even if it 's only for part of the day. You need to be able to re-group."

Rosalind Joffe is an executive career coach and president of cicoach.com, a firm that gives people with chronic illness the tools they need to succeed.

– Amanda Bednar

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Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 10:54