I give freely of my heart and wear it proudly on my sleeve. Those who know me would say it waves. I care deeply for my family, friends, and colleagues. I derive immense joy in my volunteer work with rescue animals. Be it Walk MS, animal welfare, or a community need, I do my best to advocate on behalf of others.
Caring has been both my strength and my weakness. I have touted the importance of self-care for years. Only recently, however, have I considered myself worthy of receiving it.
Self-care is integral for our ability to live with chronic disease, and absolutely imperative if we are to thrive if living with multiple sclerosis. Disease does not make self-care easy, but it does make it necessary. When we care for our needs, we strengthen the foundation of our home. Upon a strong home, we can build a formidable structure and are then better equipped to help others build theirs.
My life is different than it was one month ago. The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have created more stress than I can comfortably manage. Prone to anxiety, I use techniques daily to keep stress levels low. Inevitably, there are triggers for an MS attack, such as pain or emergent circumstances. These aside, I’ve learned to recognize when to use what I know. Deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation, music, and prayer as well as professional therapy and medications have all helped me mitigate my anxiety.
But I recently fell outside of my comfort zone. No matter what I tried, I felt my anxiety levels rise. With each passing day, the wave grew taller, stronger, and more ominous. I knew the inevitable crash was imminent. At that moment, I utilized my best resource — my brain — and called my therapist. He is one of several invaluable members of my team of physicians. Although I no longer see him regularly, he has ready access to my care. He can see my appointments and medications as well as confer with physicians. Thanks to telemedicine, we were able to discuss, then address, my concerns.
Our rapport made it easy to map out a helpful plan. While things have not been perfect, they are better. Step by step, they will continue to improve. The most important step was the first, which was giving myself permission to take care of me.
When we implement self-care, we tell ourselves that we are worthy. We can then allow ourselves to receive the necessary care we might have ignored. Through our actions, we can encourage others and liberate them to choose the same.
In a world where we can be anything, let us first be kind to ourselves.
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