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Why my MS has been so good for my MH (Mental Health)

Bit of a weird one isn't it? But it has been kind of a blessing in disguise.

Maybe it is down to facing my own mortality - I know I am not dying, but to be so young and told that you have quite a serious chronic illness now for the rest of your life just makes you go 'shit, I'm not invincible, time to take care of myself.' And what a weird and wonderful journey it has been so far!

Now don't get me wrong, I love the kind of self care that involves bubble baths, face masks, painting your nails etc and if I could do that all day, every day, I certainly would. But I'm talking about the getting to know every part of you which includes the ugly, angry parts; the parts of you that are jealous, the parts of you that make you not want to spend any time in your own company, the parts of you that make you compare yourself to others - which makes your self-hate grow even more. I was very angry for a long time; I would gossip, I was jealous, I was rude, I would say mean things - I was a bitch and probably not a nice person to be around. I knew deep down though that this wasn't the woman I wanted to grow up to be, especially now that it feels as if my own body is attacking me - do I really want my own mind to be attacking me too? Anger is a chronic illness in itself; it will make you crazy, it will make you reckless, it will make you cause harm to yourself and others and eventually it will become so all consuming, that you will forget how to be happy, or how to love. I would justify my anger, my jealousy, my stubbornness (such a healthy mixture of things) because no one was allowed to hurt me, right? Wrong. People can literally do and say whatever they want to you, it won't always be kind or what you expected, but it is ultimately down to you and how you choose to let it affect you. Going to counselling myself and realising all of these things made me want to learn to really love myself, to forgive, to learn more about myself, to let stuff go, to just focus on me and what makes me happy. In the wise words of my Lord and Saviour Ru Paul, "if you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna somebody else?"

I started noticing the things I would do for the people around me to make them feel better, like making my partner a nice home cooked meal after a long day, going for walks with a friend when they needed to clear their head, being patient with people, listening to their problems and giving advice when needed - I decided I would start doing all of these little things for myself and that it was going to be a new way of life for me.

If you are ever interested in learning more about yourself, then I do recommend going to counselling and doing a thing called shadow work; it is hard, but it does force you to confront some uncomfortable things about yourself and how your mind works - so worth it in the long run! Another thing I started doing was to test my own anxiety (I learnt this from doing counselling - CBT) and to show myself that everything was okay. I would set myself challenges, that probably seem like small things to others, but for someone who used to struggle when leaving the house on my own, these were really big, scary things! I currently work in a hotel, where there is also a pub which gets pretty busy - so I set myself the challenge of going and eating my dinner/tea on my own while the pub was busy and it was not as big a deal as my mind led me to believe. Next on my list was going to a supermarket alone, I told myself 'bet you won't go there on your own you soft ass,' and because I have never been one to let people doubt me and show me up, I did it. And for what a small errand it was, it made me feel on top of the world! Looking in the mirror also became a problem for me at one point; I used to be very skinny and petite, my word I knew I looked good - I was one of them little buggars that didn't have to go to the gym and could eat what I want (ugh what a bitch), but when I got with my partner I started putting on weight and it happened pretty quickly. All of a sudden I would notice stretch marks, my boobs had started to appear out of nowhere, my thighs started rubbing together, (better known as chub rub) my hips grew and I soon forgot what having a flat stomach was like - I hated my new body. Fast forward a year, when I still had made no effort to even be in the same post code as a gym (but had found takeaways and booze just fine), and I had been told that I had MS. Slowly but surely, this made me learn to love myself: to appreciate what a fight my body must be putting up on the inside to keep me going, how my stretch marks and hips remind me that I am still growing. And well, the burning of my thighs viciously rubbing together on a hot day is quite the reminder that I'm still here, my legs are still working and I can certainly feel it.

Anyway, I hope people learn to love and accept themselves, to be patient, to make the most of their own journey, to be kind with themselves. I am no mental health expert and do not claim to be, but I am pretty sure I have some found some kind of calling in life now - which is to help people get to that point where they can be happy and at peace no matter what is going on around them. I am certainly still learning myself, but would love to help others too along the way!

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