I have been reading several blogs of late and also corresponding with other MSers via email and a consistent *theme* has been churning over and over in my mind...it is the title of this post. But more importantly, it is the ANSWER to the title of this post that I am struggling to find.
When I was first diagnosed with MS in 2003, everyone kept telling me to "just accept it"...just "go with the flow"...don't "fight the diagnosis", etc. And, after much kicking, screaming, and gnashing of teeth, I DID eventually come to terms on my level with the disease...I *ACCEPTED* I had it and "it" wasn't going to go away. I *ACCEPTED* the notion of the unknown and worked with my inner fears. I *ACCEPTED* I would most likely be on some kind of medication for the rest of my life. I *ACCEPTED* there were NO fast or easy answers...I *ACCEPTED* there was no reason to sport a pair of "rose-colored glasses" NOR was there reason to trod in the shadow of a personal rain cloud for the rest of my life. Multiple Sclerosis was going to be whatever it was going to be in my life and I would NOT be in control of its process. I begrudgingly, painfully, surrendered to ACCEPTANCE.
The first four years of my MS came with much trial and tribulation...I had relapse after relapse...I developed new symptoms and various medication intolerances. I was hospitalized twice, tried on four different disease modifying drugs with little success, and seemed to develop lasting and permanent disabilities. I was slowly becoming less and less able to function without difficulty and...yes...this, too, I also *ACCEPTED*.
More recently, I was started on Novantrone, which has become a seemingly "wonder" drug for me. My symptoms decreased, I have had NO relapses since February 2007, my prior disabilities diminished, and I found myself returning to levels of functioning prior to the diagnosis in 2003. My OLD life as I had known it appeared to be flashing before my eyes and I literally RAN with this notion! For the first time in four years, I really WAS able to walk with a sure pace and run if I wanted to. My body and my mind adjusted quickly to the idea MS was no longer in control of my every moment and thought...and yes, this TOO, I *ACCEPTED*.
Over the past few weeks, I have been unfortunately experiencing a return of fairly serious spasticity and stiffness in my legs...my fatigue level is inching its way back up on the notorious scale...I am having muscular pains in my legs, hips, and back. I am being reminded of my MS on a daily basis again...AND...I am having great difficulty ACCEPTING this.
Having had my few months window of normalcy, I am now constantly reminded of what my life *could* be without MS constantly knocking on my door...I am reminded of the many wonders of life and the simple things I often take for granted...like walking without pain OR simply being ABLE to walk. I am reminded of the ease at which my life *could* travel without physical difficulties...I am reminded of what my life SHOULD be like...without MS.
There is a tiny voice inside my head that repeatedly whispers, "Just accept it" and, I know how much calmer my mental state would be if I DID just accept it. I know how much less fear and angst I would experience if I DID just let it be...to just embrace my MS once again with open arms.
But I can't help but ponder what I might be GIVING UP and GIVING IN to by just *ACCEPTING* my current symptoms again? Should I just settle for my current state of being and not FIGHT for a return of "the good life"? Where does that fine line fall between *ACCEPTING* where I am at on the continuum of my MS and diligently SEARCHING for something better?...actively fighting for whatever drug/exercise/rehabilitation/physical therapy/snake oil might IMPROVE my current state? How do I know when to "Let go and let God" (as they say in Alcoholics Anon when surrendering to that particular disease) or use the brains GOD gave me to figure out something better? When do I say, "This is how it is" versus "I can fight this"?
One of my dearest spiritual teachers once told me a story about her life several years ago where she became immobilized by choices. She told me there was a time in her life where she was so deep in thought about choices that she simply could not choose. Everything in life became a pondering choice...to go this way, or choose a different route...to say this thing or choose to say something else...to do this with her life or choose something different. The idea of choices became immobilizing. One day, she remained in bed for THREE days stuck in the notion that whatever she chose to do when she got out of bed would alter her life.
On the third day of staying in bed and hiding under the bedsheets, she had an epiphany...STAYING IN BED AND NOT CHOOSING WAS ALSO A CHOICE. This realization had a profound impact on her life at that very moment. She *chose* to get out of bed and continue living, no longer bogged down with guilt, questions, or ideas about her life choices...her life just simply "was".
I think about this example now as I question my *ACCEPTANCE* issues...by neither *choosing* to accept my current state with my MS nor *choosing* to "fight the good fight", I am left immobilized. Nothing changes for the better, yet my Multiple Sclerosis continues along its merry path of disease. IT will NOT stop for me to wait to *choose* what I want or need to do in response to the many curve balls it throws at me. My MS and its symptoms is a fluid disease, always changing, always variable. And my response to it will most likely mimic the disease path...always changing and always variable in my level of *ACCEPTANCE*.
So, today I'm going to go ahead and get out of bed to do the things I need to do, even WITH my pain and discomfort. I will make myself exercise and eat healthfully because I know this is the "right" thing to do...I will take the drugs prescribed to try to lessen the effects of the pain and discomfort...I don't HAVE to *ACCEPT* my MS today, but I DO have to live with it for now...and THIS is also a choice...