Sailing Beyond Fear With SPMS

Sailing Beyond Fear With SPMS
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I grew up sailing the San Francisco Bay. My summers were spent in sailing school. My father’s daughter, I loved being on the water. There was no place more peaceful or exhilarating.

That serenity turned to turbulence one cold and foggy day. While speeding downwind, our boat broached. The bow dipped below the water’s surface, knocking me down hard. Harnessed in, I panicked as two-thirds of the boat submerged. My frozen fingers could not detach the harness.

Within seconds it was over. We were upright and safe. But I now feared the thing I had once loved.

Columnist Jennifer Powell during summer sailing camp at Tinsley Island, California, in 1984. (Courtesy of Jennifer Powell)

Fear is a powerful provocateur. Our minds can take an experience or perception and create a lasting narrative. Living with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is a lesson in metabolizing fear. Life before MS was synonymous with sailing. Free and fluid, I was agile in both my abilities and desires. Multiple sclerosis was my broach. Its sudden onset shook my world. My speech, mobility, dexterity, and cognition all took a hit.

I lived in anticipation of my next exacerbation. The anxiety left me far more disabled than the MS. I was afraid of doing too much. I was afraid of doing too little. Panic left me paranoid and exhausted.

I soon realized this was unsustainable. There was zero space in the universe for both panic and peace. I decided to reconstruct where I could focus my efforts. Living with multiple sclerosis meant losing that which no longer served my best interests. I adjusted my expectations and created real-life solutions for healthier living.

Stress was a cyclical beast. The more I stressed about being stressed, the more stressed I became. This affected my symptomology as much as heat exposure did.

I began dismantling each aspect of my disease. What did I fear most? Which did I need to learn more about? Which did I stress about the most?

I flipped the fear by facing it head-on. Nothing looked as bad on paper as it had been afloat in my head. I now manage my MS with a fresh perspective. I work on things as they arise instead of letting them overwhelm. Fear now exists only in proportion to that which also serves to inspire.

Life is not devoid of stormy weather. It is learning how to navigate rough seas. If you are sailing, fluid, and free, you might just need some wind. Or MS.

***

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.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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12 comments

  1. Sherry Bennett says:

    Thank you so much for such an inspiring piece of writing. Full of good advice and can do spirit! I forget that it is OK to let go of expectations and do what is in my best interest.

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Sherry,

      Thank you so much for your kindness. I’m grateful that you found this inspiring and insightful. Give yourself permission to shine, you deserve nothing less!

      Warmly,
      Jenn

  2. Donna Hagy says:

    Jennifer,
    Such an inspirational message. Certainly a wonderful example of someone that has a challenge and made the most of life.
    Hugs,
    Donna

    • Jenn Powell says:

      Donna,

      I hope you are well.Thank you so much for your kind comment. I hope to keep flipping these challenges one day at a time.

      Kindly,
      Jenn

  3. Graham ANDERSON says:

    Hi Jenn
    Powerful and very well written. Thank you. A Buddhist once shared a mantra with me that use most days. It fortifies me with unparalleled appreciation and gratitude … “Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent.” Go well.

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Dear Graham,

      Thank you so much, Graham. I appreciate your kindness. I very much like your mantra! I was raised with a father who said, “This too shall pass.”

      Thank you again.
      Kindly,
      Jenn

  4. Alison says:

    It’s amazing how the positivity can be felt when you read this, thank you. I enjoy reading your messages- I so hope that you enjoy writing them- you’re helping a lot of people, so I hope that You feel that, and keep them coming!

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Hi Alison,

      Thank you so much for your kind message. I am grateful to have the absolute best readers and hope to continue writing for a long while to come. My best to you always.

      Kindly,
      Jenn

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