2019 March Blog – My Journey: Living with Multiple Sclerosis
One day when I was 23 years old, the right side of my body went numb from my feet all the way up to my collar bone. Completely numb – I could feel some pressure, but I couldn’t tell if I was being poked with a needle, a knife or a finger. Luckily, it was just a finger – usually mine – while I tried to figure out what was going on, and, how far up my body was it now? Over the next several months I experienced a variety of mysterious symptoms like creepy crawly feelings in my legs, extreme temperature sensitivity, blurred & double vision. Most of these came and went, but the numbness in my fingers and feet seemed to be constant for those first 6 months. During this time I also underwent various types of tests, and saw several different specialists in trying to answer the one looming question: what was going on with me?
It turns out, I was one of the the “lucky” ones. I have since learned that having several different symptoms appear in rapid succession is the best and easiest way to get a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. This diagnosis is very important in order to have the proper treatment start as soon as possible. MS presents differently for everyone, which can make it very hard to diagnose in a timely manner.
The first few years were not easy, when I was diagnosed I was just starting to figure out the world. I had recently graduated from college, was newly married to my highschool sweetheart, and eager to get on with the rest of my life and build a successful career and family.
Suddenly, my plans for the future changed.
Now I had to plan for a lifetime of medical treatments, and what I thought would be impending disability and total loss of independence.
Multiple Sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disorder. This means, my immune system had started attacking my brain and spinal cord. Specifically, the myelin sheath which is the coating on the nerve fibres that carry the messages from my brain to my body and back. When the myelin becomes damaged, it doesn’t conduct messages very well and this can result in a very wide variety of symptoms depending where in my brain or spine the attacks take place.
Multiple Sclerosis is also considered to be a chronic illness which means there is no cure. Basically, I needed to learn how to live with it and control it as best I could.
There are lots of new treatments over the past 20 years that have helped slow the progression of my disease. However, over time it does progress and the symptoms that used to come and go now tend to linger or stay for an extended period. The symptoms that used to be limited to my sensory nerves have now progressed to muscle weakness and lack of coordination, among other symptoms less visible, and much less glamorous.
I spent the first 12 – 15 years or so of this diagnosis working REALLY hard to secure my future. I followed the advice to get a steady job and make sure it has good medical and disability benefits “because you are going to need them”.
By the time I was 30 I was divorced.
By the time I was 35 I was stressed out, burnt out, and I was becoming sicker.
I started using a cane because I had starting tripping and falling a bit too often. People suggested I see a counsellor. My Dr. thought I might have a some depression and even prescribed antidepressants. After all, I was a 30-something, divorcee with MS, working in a job that was suckiing the joy out of me. I must be depressed right?! Probably right.
Then I found Yoga. Yes capital “Y”. Yoga.
It was different than the yoga videos and exercise style classes I was used to. I found a peace and release that I didn’t even know I was missing. Once I stopped pushing myself to the point of exhaustion and stopped worrying about the future, I could actually focus on healing right now.
I think there is a big difference between “curing” and “healing”. Yoga won’t cure my MS, but it sure is helping me heal. Taking yoga classes taught me how to breathe to be present in the moment, and how to be aware of my body. This made good sense to me at the beginning of my Yoga journey because I finally realized I had to take better care of my physical body now, so that I could stay in good shape as long as possible.
Then I decided to become a Yoga teacher. The more Yoga I did, the more I realized I was benefiting not just from increased physical wellness (very significant for someone with a chronic illness!), but my whole body/mind/spirit was improving!
Eventually I wasn’t scared any more. What a relief that was!
I remember crying tears of joy and release when one day I realized I wasn’t scared. I felt like my heart opened that day and I let new love in. So, I decided to study a few more years and recently became a Yoga Therapist to learn more about this deeper healing and release that I had experienced. I wanted more of this peaceful feeling, I didn’t want to go back to living my life in fear of a future that I didn’t want to face. Or always trying to prove something to myself or someone else.
I could just be. That’s it. Just be okay.
Yoga Therapists are trained to help individuals through the specific application of techniques such as yoga postures, breathing, meditating and more. We learn about 5 different layers (called Koshas or sheaths) of the body where healing can take place and how to help people with their specific concern. A Yoga Therapist doesn’t just teach you how to do yoga postures, but how to apply those and other techniques to your own healing journey.
My personal practice and healing journey continue as I still face every day with a chronic illness. Yoga won’t cure my MS, but it sure makes MS a less significant part my life!
If you have a chronic illness like anxiety or depression, or an autoimmune condition that is affecting your life, consider booking an appointment. We start with an intake and assessment to determine the best practice for you. Then we develop a home practice for you to work on. The goal of Yoga Therapy is to give clients a home practice to most efficiently help them reach their wellness goals working along with your current medical care providers. Your home practice might include yoga postures, breathing, or creating other daily rituals that work for you! For the first few months, you might come in to see me more often as your home practice develops, then only as often as needed or wanted, as your needs or goals change.
My goal is to live life like I don’t have MS. What’s yours?
Contact me to begin your healing journey.