Focusing on What I Can Do Rather Than What I Can’t

Jessie Ace avatar

by Jessie Ace |

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This year, I’ve been acutely aware that my body isn’t perfect.

Sometimes it doesn’t move well. Sometimes it cuts off sensation in my limbs without notice. Sometimes it gets wiped out from fatigue. Sometimes it’s like MS shakes up my head so hard, like a can of soda, that I blurt out words in the wrong place, in the wrong order, and at the wrong time.

This is my version of living with multiple sclerosis.

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Occasionally, my limbs start falling out with each other like squabbling siblings. One leg twitches while the other tingles. One hand is weak while the other brags strength. And the next minute it all changes.

I’ve accepted that I can’t win, so instead, I choose to be happy with what I have.

Despite all these annoyances, I appreciate what my body can still do. I know anything can happen at any moment, and things can always get worse unexpectedly. I could either worry constantly or handle things one day at a time. So, I’m adjusting to my new normal as I go.

Before MS, I used to worry about so many things that I now realize don’t matter, such as what people will think of my new haircut. In reality, it doesn’t matter.

Illness has given me a completely different understanding of life, and I’ve learned to let go of the reins. I’ve done a lot of hard work on myself, and it took a lot to get to this stage of compassion. I am always focused on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

Don’t get me wrong, MS makes things challenging at times. Yes, my left hip is still weak from a previous flare. Yes, it pains me to say I still can’t run after my last relapse. (But I’m getting stronger every day.) Yes, the heat turns my brain into sludge, and it’s hard to concentrate. Yes, it’s hot today, which automatically means I’m exhausted.

I’ve learned things will go wrong with multiple sclerosis, but it’s how we perceive these events that affects our overall sanity.

You may remember my recent experience looking after a dog while my leg didn’t work. I could have given up then and there. Instead, I chose to find a way around it.

This year, my MS journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s taught me a lot. I choose to see it as the wake-up call I need to:

  • Manage my stress better
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more
  • Take time to rest
  • Do more of what I enjoy in life

Living with MS requires internal strength, courage, and resilience. I didn’t have much of those qualities when I was diagnosed. I had to develop them along the way. This helped me survive difficult times and appreciate good times.

As long as we’re doing everything in our power to live well with what we have, that’s enough.

MS is different for everyone, and we all have various symptoms, relapses, and experiences. It’s up to us how to perceive this illness.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Maria Koutromanos avatar

Maria Koutromanos

Great article, as if you took the words straight out of my mouth. I often think of writing my thoughts down but when I do I’m at a loss for words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings

Sari Friedman avatar

Sari Friedman

Great article. Definitely has been one of my mantras - focus on what I can do vs what I can’t do.

Bill Harrison avatar

Bill Harrison

Thanks,! You nailed it!

Marie serres avatar

Marie serres

Could you please tell me what is the best multi vitamins to take. Thanks

Mrs Pauline Cox avatar

Mrs Pauline Cox

Excellent explanation of my MS, thought I had written it myself. I was lucky that my MS didn't start til I was 72yrs, but those symptoms are mine, so good wishes for your positive thinking Jessie??

Quiana Ervin avatar

Quiana Ervin

I enjoyed reading your article I agree 100% its a great feeling to know I'm not alone.

Jennifer Bodurtha avatar

Jennifer Bodurtha

Have had MS for 34 years and am now 60. My diet has been key of under 10 grams of saturated fat. Can no longer drive but get around with my walker. And my husband. Also increase your vitamin D. It's so low with lots of people.

Greg cannon avatar

Greg cannon

Great article as this is what most us feel, learn to not sweat the small stuff and enjoy the good moments you have.

KarenLee Johnson avatar

KarenLee Johnson

Love your comments. That’s how I have tried to look at this horrid disease. I was 27 when I was dx and did ok until 2005, when suddenly I was diagnosed and hospitalized for several months. I have struggled to get back to where I was but my body doesn’t cooperate. Thanks for your writing!

Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

I find ways to adapt to my symptoms and I then think I can live with this. MS is ever changing and I have to reinvent my adaptations.

Stephen Kent avatar

Stephen Kent

I’m 70 years old. Have MS 15 years now. Thought my life was in ruins. Now I know to just look on the bright side about everything. I am crippled but I’m alive. I can read books, watch my TV. Interact with my friends. Visit with my family. Thanks for this forum. Lots to learn I suppose! Later y’all.

Abbey avatar


Thanks for that, Jessie. I've always said "MS keeps the mind ticking over." - with its working out alternative ways - ie listening for the 'sqweak' when rinsing shampoo out of your hair with numb hands!, and often tell my husband "WickWick" which is: What I can, when I can.
All the very best to all MSers, everywhere.

Sherron Shields avatar

Sherron Shields

You are a champion and have a great attitude. I don't have MS but my daughter does and was diagnosed over 11 years ago. I hope it's OK to ask questions as I have some. My daughter has some physical issues but it's her mental state I'm worried about. I've heard that some with Ms have bi polar and/or schizophrenic symptoms such as paranoia, extreme mood changes and serious highs to lows. I don't think she's aware of how bad it has become and as she is a teacher doesn't want it to affect her career. If anyone has some input on this I would be extremely grateful. Thank you

Karen Key avatar

Karen Key

Hi Jessie, what a great article. It explains me exactly. I was diagnosed at the age of 31 and it's now been 30 years since my diagnosis. I started out with Remitting/Relapsing MS which is now progressing to Secondary Progressive. My biggest concern when I was first diagnosed was if I would see my son grow up (he was 5 at the time). Well, I have seen him grow up, get married and we are now blessed with 2 beautiful grandchildren. For me, my diagnosis was a wake up call. I developed severe depression at the start, and ended up in therapy which was the best thing I had ever done. I managed to deal with things which had been affecting me all my life. I probably wouldn't have gone into therapy if not for my diagnosis so it was a sort of blessing in disguise.

Reg Bavis avatar

Reg Bavis

I have ms digonished in 1995 with secondary progressive it’s now primary prodressive I’m coping quiet well I’m now 82 all the simtions that you explain I experience them also , I exercise daily and find this helps control my simptions


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