Sometimes you can find strength just by the way you think about things. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 20. MS is a disease of the central nervous system. Each person with MS experiences it differently. It’s unpredictable and, when I was diagnosed, untreatable. (Now, there are disease modifying medications available.) Newly diagnosed, I felt helpless and depressed about the way my life might unfold. I thought of MS as a threatening monster. I wanted to run away from it or beat it into submission.

That kind of thinking left me sad, trapped, and weak.

Later, by looking at my experience with tender curiosity, I was able to see living with MS as a dance. I identified four movements in the dance of illness.

  1. Overwhelm: when you receive a difficult diagnosis, or symptoms change or increase, it’s natural to be confused and thrown off balance. What you expected is no longer true, and you must make changes. This might be as simple as a few extra trips to the doctor or as life changing as being unable to walk.
  2. Incubation: sometimes either the disease itself or the emotional or mental load of knowing you are ill require you to rest. Pulling back from activity and taking some time to be is needed.
  3. Reconciliation: moments of grace and clarity appear as you rest. They enable you to explore what has changed. You may sense that everything will be okay even though your life will be different than you thought it would be.
  4. Rededication: accepting and expressing your changed self leads you back to joy.

These movements don’t necessarily come in order. You may move forward and back or skip around. Such is the nature of the dance.

By seeing my illness as a creative process, I gained agency. I felt encouraged, energized, and strong.

Sometimes you can find strength just by the way you think about things.

In your journal:

  • How might you change the way you are thinking about a challenge you face?
  • Do the steps above fit your experience? What are the movements in your dance?
  • Write a letter to or from your illness/challenge.