Choosing Happiness

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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Jennifer Silver Linings
I find it funny when people ask how and why I am so positive and happy. Am I supposed to be sad and negative just because I have multiple sclerosis? There are certainly days when the pain and/or side effects get me down, but gratefully, these are exceptions and not the rule.

My theory? Happiness is a choice

I continue to witness people who wait for happiness to come, as if the entire effect will befall them. I see them lament their misfortune while casting curious and paradoxical glances my way, befuddled at my cheer amidst perceived misfortune.

I have yet to see it decreed that living with multiple sclerosis is equivocal to sadness. While I have great respect and empathy for clinical depression, the sadness I speak of seems somewhat self-imposed. I speak from experience; I have had paralyzing depression and can differentiate between that, and a pervasive negativity that follows you around like a dark cloud. For the purposes of this column, I speak of the latter.

About that dark cloud – it sucks. There is nothing enlightening about making yourself small and insignificant in the name of MS or any other malady. A diagnosis of MS does not mean you are not privy to any less of a magnificent life than the healthy individual next to you. Yes, it may take more work to achieve it, and without a doubt you will skin your knee and your ego along the way, but it is yours for the taking.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

I used to get so upset when anyone would suggest to me that things could always be worse. I would immediately become defensive in the name of whatever it was I was going through at that particular time. All things being equal, I understand everything is relative, but that simple adage helps me stay grateful.

Gratitude is to happiness as sugar is to cookies: It is essential. As with anything, living gratefully takes practice and can often seem rote at times. That is OK. We have to change our cognition in order to change our mindset, and changing any habit takes repetition. The beautiful phenomenon is that soon routine gives way to being and one day, regardless of your pain or numbness, you wake up and smile. It is yours.

I have ridden the pendulum of physical and emotional turmoil that shakes you to your core. I have grieved the loss of physicality only you will understand, and I have lived with pain so unrelenting it brings you to your knees. I get what it is like to live in the dark so long you curse the light, until you become it. I know the joy of choosing hope amidst fear and pain. I live in that light I once condemned only because I, too, wanted to shine.

You can hold both, as life is not as simplistic as one or the other. Through the grace of God, I am holding both today, and every morning I pray for guidance, humility and gratitude. Through everything I have come to find that happiness is not the destination, but the journey.

In the words of the late Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been” – and it has.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Lara Flanagan avatar

Lara Flanagan

I have multiple sclerosis (diagnosed in early 2013) and that article resonated with me more than anything I have read on the topic.
Happiness and hope are both huge choices. But probably the most important ones we make in our lives. Thank you to the author xxx

Jennifer Powell avatar

Jennifer Powell

I'm so grateful this touched you. I empathize with the both the struggle to choose happiness amid pain, fear and uncertainty, but as you said it is so important.

Wishing you the best.


Isil avatar


When I was waiting to get better from the MS, yes, I did believe it could happen, I did not focus on anything outside of myself. I lost what compassion I had in life, I was fixated on symptoms and cures. I came to despise myself, deeply. There was so much medication involved, and I allowed myself to become lost and unhappy. Even my self hate carried with it more ominous tones. I missed who I thought I had been.

Fortunately there was a road back. I live in a very beautiful place, though I did not see it. Every night I went to the river and begged to be a better person, and to practice compassion in my life. I didn't focus on the past, but compassion had been an important aspect of me. After about six months, things began to change. I stopped medication that could add to depression, including the antidepressant.
I walked in the trees and talked and thought and listened to the running water. I was being helped. I was thankful and relieved. I gave thanks every time I walked. I did not allow myself to ask for anything, no wishes, only thanks. More signs of being helped occurred, as well as some life changing moments that will remain unsaid. It is Four years later and the hard work and unbelievable happiness continues, I feel as if it comes from the land.
If you face depression, I am concerned. I wish you the best in finding hope in the circumstances you encounter each day. I have never worshipped God, or any other deity. If God is available to you, good. Let God know your problem, then work with him to find a plan. If you do not have that, there apparently are forces available to us that are most kind and giving. Seek their help. Ask for help, Don't be alone.


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