This year was full of surprises. Not the type that I was expecting. At all. As I mentioned in my “When Things Fall Apart” post, the traffic on this website, Elana's Pantry, skyrocketed to over 900,000 unique monthly visitors, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, I had not scaled the site for such a high volume of traffic and so it crashed. And crashed. And crashed. Which was not a good thing.
I did not handle the stress well at all, taking it into my body, and by May of 2014 I experienced the first MS attack since the one that occurred in 2006 when I was diagnosed with this disease. I don't often discuss living with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, as it is something I make an effort not to think about. This keeps my nervous system calm, and I'm happier, which is healthier for myself and my family.
Living with a major condition like MS is far different than dealing with a digestive disorder such as celiac disease. An autoimmune disease of the digestive system is incredibly damaging, an autoimmune disease of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) is something else altogether that can affect the function of each and every part of the body. Many things broke this spring, and I spent time in hand therapy, pelvic floor therapy and vision therapy, all on top of my regular physical therapy.
Generally, my family and I grieve over these types of tiny tragedies privately. We have processed this all year long as a family in various ways –sometimes through discussion and at other times silently. I did not write about this MS attack sooner as I wanted to give my family time to grieve, feel their own fears, and process this situation. I also felt the need to digest this experience prior to sharing it. This strange and complicated event took me a long time to sort though. I still am parsing it and making meaning from it. Now, strangely, I am stronger. Perhaps not emotionally. I'm still scared, and just a tad traumatized. I had compartmentalized the MS into the year 2006, the year of my diagnosis. This year, somehow the genie was let out of the bottle. That is frightening. However, I am stronger physically. I can walk farther and my core is stronger. I am more flexible. I am healing. I am living and breathing and thankful. Interestingly, my faith is stronger too. Prayer has been my pillar in these times. So often we think of prayer as asking for what we want. My prayers this year have been of gratitude for everything I have, this acceptance too has made me stronger.
Of course, my healing plan has been more critical than ever. I've made sure to get extra rest. I cut carbs out of my diet –no more cookies or fruit (ok, blueberries once in a while). Lots more fat, vegetables, and protein! My blood work is better than ever. The doctors are amazed. The drugs I took helped me. And yes, I took drugs. When you face the choice of going the medical route or ending up in a wheelchair the decision is a simple one. If you are uneasy with my choice that's ok, sometimes I am too. I wish I could tell you that my diet saved my life. It didn't. Unfortunately, my life isn't that linear. It took a lot to get me sick, and it has taken a lot for me to get well. Life is complex. At least my life, with MS is.
Healing has so many different forms for me –an amazingly clean diet, loads of sleep (8 hours per night minimum), various forms of physical therapy, prayer, and drugs. And when it comes to drugs, I can tell you, try everything you can before taking them, but do not resist them entirely. Not because it makes you more “successful” in your healing process, but because the drugs you take will work much better and you will need to take much less of them, and have far fewer side effects resulting in less quality of life issues. And when you take drugs, take them with love and a prayer. If your body is open to them and the healing they provide, their positive effects will work more deeply. Your blessing, buy-in, positive thinking, and openness are everything no matter which remedy, or remedies you choose. Sleep, exercise, food, or drugs –whatever you choose to do, do it with love!
Although I cancelled many activities that had been scheduled this year in order to take the time I needed to heal, I did keep one crucial commitment –a trip to Spain with our children. Part of the issue with being a parent and having a major health condition is showing up. You and your family will deal with a life of surprises and inconsistency. When dealing with a major, chronic illness, you can't always be there, you can't make it to every school play and activity. Being sick can make you unreliable. Some children adapt to this very well, others not so much. For my children, who have grown up with me in compromised health throughout their entire lives, I felt that taking a two week family trip was very important, something we hadn't done before. We were all somewhat nervous about my taking the trip. Thankfully, with some very smart planning (a less than fast paced vacation) the trip turned out ok.
The photo above was taken of us in Barcelona at Gaudi's Sagrada Familia church. So much of my healing comes from my faith. Mosques, temples, churches and other holy places of prayer are imbued with a special energy that I find inexplicably beautiful and healing. We spent much time in these types of places while in Spain.
I guess the biggest lesson I learned in 2014 was to take care of myself and do so with a gentle patience and loving kindness. I'm hoping that 2015 is a little easier, perhaps even a little smoother, but with my faith stronger than ever, I'm ready to face whatever comes my way.