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Why a MS Diagnosis Was the Beginning of My Life

Why a MS Diagnosis Was the Beginning of My Life

Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 was the best thing that has happened to me.  Bet you don’t hear that statement too often!  But seriously, my diagnosis was a turning point in my life.  It woke me up and got my attention back where it needed to be: the basics.

I was on vacation in sunny Ft. Meyers, Florida burning my winter-pale skin on the third baseline of Fenway South.  Most vacations are memorable, but this one will always hold special meaning to me, for it was that Red Sox spring training vacation in 2007 that I noticed a numb spot on the bottom of my right foot.  It felt weird, but wasn’t causing any major malfunctions so I continued to enjoy winter baseball.

Months later I would visit a neurologist who explained to me that I might have Multiple Sclerosis.

For those of you that are unaware of MS and its wonderful symptoms, I will allow the National MS Society webpage to explain:

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

Basically what happens is your immune system decides to attack your central nervous symptom.  It wreaks havoc on nerves and causes countless side effects including: severe fatigue, nerve pain, hyper-reflexes, banding in the chest, lightning flash pains, headaches, joint pain, skin sensitivity, noise sensitivity, depression, anxiety and in rare instances, death.

Now back to our story.  As any normal, self-diagnosing expert does, I conducted an extensive internet investigation and immediately starting designing my coffin!  All joking aside, my initial reaction was to excuse myself from the doctor’s office, go outside and cry.  After all, the only knowledge I had of MS was Annette Funicello… and she died!  What I would eventually discover was that MS was the best thing that could have happened in my life; it was a gift!

Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption said it best:  “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” So, I turned a “death sentence” into my own personal new beginning.

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My disease forced me to focus on my body, my mind and my spirit, which is why a MS diagnosis was the beginning of my life!

My Body

Up until a few years ago I didn’t think much on what types of food I put in my body, nor what quantity.  It was not uncommon for me to eat fast food several times per week or lay around the house on my days off.  Then it dawned on me that carrying around too much body fat and a lack of physical activity was actually helping MS destroy my body!

I had to make a change.  I developed a plan that would involve introducing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and water into my eating regimen.  I began to track my daily caloric intake with a mobile app and began to walk the dog 2-3 times per day for exercise.  I spoke with a nutrition expert to check my plan for weaknesses and to gain a better understanding of how the body operates.

My plan was a huge success.  In 6 months I trimmed down from nearly 200 pounds to 170 pounds, mostly due to a keen awareness of the types of fuel I put in my body.  I knew that if I were going to be successful I would have to focus on a strict eating routine due to the fact that I would not be as active as a healthy adult male.

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The benefits of losing that weight have been immeasurable!  My symptoms, although still present, are more tolerable.  My knees and hips hurt less when walking up and down stairs.  My feet hurt less when taking the dog for a walk.  My confidence has been elevated, which helps tremendously on the bad days.  There is a reason why military personnel go through extensive physical training, because if the body is weak the mind will be weak.  I had to have a more fit and healthy body to help my mind deal with the stress of living with MS.

My Mind

One of the worst symptoms associated with MS is cognitive impairment, and for me it is a new and developing issue.  I have moments when I forget how to spell my wife’s name or forget where I’m going or can’t remember my social security number.  Now for most this would seem normal as we’ve all experienced walking into a room to retrieve something, only to forget what that something was.  With MS it is like that scenario, but slightly more often and a little more extreme.

To combat this my neurologist suggested I incorporate activities into my life that would act as cognitive therapy.  So I decided to start blogging.  Writing would challenge my mind, keep me fresh and would allow me to purge some of the internal baggage I had been holding on to.

It had been years since I exercised my mind on a regular basis and boy was writing a workout!  Developing post ideas, outlining, writing and editing was just what the doctor ordered.  No pun intended!  Writing my blog has changed my perspective on having MS, as well as, the world around me.  I met new and interesting people that had diseases and health situations far more drastic than mine, which allowed me to appreciate my life and my disease.  I am reminded of a quote by Regina Brett: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”  Writing challenged my mind and led me to a brand new world that put my life in perspective.  And trust me, the mental drain of hurting everyday is intense and unrelenting!  Having my mind in the right place made it easier to deal with the daily grind of dealing with constant pain.

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My Spirit

Our spirit is one of the areas I think most people neglect and one of the first areas sick people reclaim.  I met a doctor through my blog that had abandoned traditional medicine and had replaced it with what he referred to as Integrative Medicine.  I had never heard of this method before, but once I educated myself I realized this was for me.  Integrative medicine incorporates treating the mind, body and spirit with many types of treatments, including traditional medications. The primary difference being that a traditional doctor will prescribe you medications to treat only the body.

I would come to understand how neglecting my spirit, my essence, had negatively affected me as a person and my ability to deal with my MS.  I began to introduce some meditation practices into my morning routine as well as prayer; something I had not done in nearly 20 years.

Needless to say awakening my spirit has been invaluable in better understanding myself, my disease and my place in this world.  I don’t have to fret and worry about the future.  I don’t have to wonder why.  I don’t allow these types of thoughts to enter my mind as I have learned they are unproductive.

Prior to my diagnosis I took my life for granted.  I took life in general for granted.  I took walking for granted.  I under-appreciated living in a healthy body.  MS has opened my life to meeting incredible people, volunteering as a public speaker for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and becoming a blogger and soon to be author.  None of these things would have happened had it not been for MS.

Sure the daily grind of being in pain is tough, but I wouldn’t trade my experience thus far for any amount of money. One day we will live in a world where MS is a thing of the past, taking its place beside polio where it belongs.  Until then, you’ll find me writing, eating veggies and maybe doing a little meditation.

If you’d like to find out more about my experience, please click on the link in my author bio.

Featured photo credit: On the Fence/Steve Wilson via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

Maybe you like going on walks in your neighborhood or hiking in the park, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Or perhaps, you like to push yourself with spin classes and work up a real sweat. Maybe that basketball at a local recreation league is your thing.

But even though you enjoy these activities and you like the way you feel when you are doing them, somehow lately, you haven’t been able to muster up the energy to participate.

There’s a “catch-22” that often happens when you’re wanting to work out, but you are not in the mood. Working out will boost your mood and make you feel better.[1]

But because of your current mood, you don’t want to work out. Does this conundrum sound familiar?

Anyone can get stuck in this rut from time to time. It could be that work has been taking too much out of you, or your family and personal commitments are eating up a lot of your time and energy. You’ve got to find a way to break out of this cycle.

Getting your groove back requires finding a way to getting back to working out; you need a way to get started again.

How can you get started? Use one of the following hacks to get you back on track. Find one or two of the ideas on this list that speak to you and that you think you can easily implement. Once you get your workout mojo back, you’ll be surprised at not only how much better you can feel in a short amount of time, but also how much better everything will seem.

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Here are 7 ways to motivate yourself to workout.

1. Don’t Get Sucked Into the Black Hole of the Couch

As soon as you come in the door from work, get your workout clothes on and hit the door. If you sit down on the comfy sofa, it will take more fortitude to get yourself going. Think of your sofa as quicksand and don’t get pulled into the trap.

It’s a simple law of physics—Newton’s first law: An object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion.[2] You can nestle into the comfy couch after your workout. But first, while you’re in motion from your day, stay in motion and get your workout in.

2. Find an Accountability Partner

Studies show that having an accountability partner greatly increases your exercise frequency and success.[3] Talk to some of your friends and find someone who is interested who has the same schedule as you, and you’ll find it easier to motivate yourself to workout.

Maybe you have a friend who would love to hike early morning before work, or maybe you know someone that would like to hit a dance class right after work ends. Knowing that you have to meet someone else will make you think twice about blowing off your workout.

You don’t have to have all your workouts include your partner, but even if you meet this person once a week, that will give you a boost to want to keep your workout going on other days. If you really feel that you need an accountability partner all the time, then find 2-3 people and meet them 2-3 times a week.

One caveat: if your accountability partner cancels on you, be prepared for that and keep to your schedule. Everyone has things come up every now and then, but if you find your partner is frequently trying to cancel or reschedule, you probably need to find a new partner.

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3. Or, Make Yourself an Accountability Partner

Commit to 30 days of an exercise plan. Look at your calendar and plan out which days and times you are going to work out, including what that workout will be. Allow yourself two “do-overs” for random life events or illness—but only two.

For example, let’s say you have on your calendar that you are going to go to a spin class after work on a Tuesday, but a family member calls whose car broke down and you have to go assist.

You will rearrange that date of your spin class and find a different date to put it on the calendar, but you only want to do that for necessary external life events. Hitting the snooze button because you woke up too tired isn’t a good excuse.

If you can stick to 30 days of this plan, it should feel more like a habit and be simpler going forward as you reap the benefits of feeling better, mood boost, and more energy.

4. Integrate Some Mini-Movement Into Your Day

If you go into work and sit at a desk most of the day, it will feel good to get out and move your muscles afterward. But sometimes, it seems difficult to get out of that sedentary rut.

One solution is staying in touch with your body all throughout the day. Set a few timers on your phone during the day, and when they go off, take a few minutes to do different physical movements.

Stretching and doing forward bends or side bends are some ideas. You can stand against the wall and “peel” off of it, feeling each vertebra and releasing your lower back. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes around. Do calf raises, standing up and lifting your heels up and down.

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These small movements done 2-3 times throughout your workday may seem insignificant, but they will keep your attuned to your physical self a bit more so that you will be more motivated to have some bigger, longer, “real” workout sessions.

Think of them as appetizers and your workout is the big meal.

5. Eat Something Fresh

Speaking of a big meal, what we eat and drink is related to how we feel. So, if you’re not eating particularly well these days, commit to at least eating one fresh item daily. Maybe you have an apple as an afternoon snack. Perhaps you fix a nice salad to go along with your dinner.

Sometimes, we’re so busy on the run that we don’t realize we’ve not been eating as fresh as we’d like. By making the conscious choice to seek out some fresh food, you’re taking care of yourself which in turn will make you think about those same kinds of choices when it comes to exercise.

Another benefit is that if you’re eating well, you may feel “lighter” and have more energy to work out.

6. Create an Alter Ego

It may sound kind of crazy at first, but employing the use of an alter ego can be a great way to break out of a habit or create some life changes you desire. In his book The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman illustrates how an Alter Ego is a mental trick to improve your life. Many famous entertainers have used alter egos to overcome stage fright.

How could this work for you? You may be too tired to work out at the end of the day, but your alter ego isn’t.

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Let’s say you create a character named “Ironman.” Sure, when you come in from a long day at work, you can talk yourself into wanting to relax on the couch. But Ironman doesn’t feel that way—he’s ready to throw on his sneakers and go for a run!

7. Water, Water Everywhere

Sometimes the simplest rules are the most important. We all know we are supposed to be hydrated throughout the day. But if you’re busy all day at work and you’ve nursed a big tumbler of coffee all morning, suddenly it might be early afternoon and you realize you haven’t had any water today.

Drinking water boosts mood and decreases fatigue.[4] These two factors will help you motivate yourself to workout.

Make sure you’re getting your water intake all throughout the day, and if you’ve had coffee, drink some extra water to counteract the dehydrating effect of it.

Final Thoughts

So, how are you planning to get going this week?

Motivate yourself to workout—pour yourself a big glass of water, get out your calendar, and think about what types of workouts you want to do.

Whether you call a friend and ask him/her to be an accountability partner, or whether you sketch out an alter ego for yourself so you can harness your power, you can use a hack to get you back on the track of being motivated to work out.

You know how good you feel when you do, so give yourself that gift. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow—go get your sneakers on!

More Tips to Motivate Yourself to Workout

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Borba via unsplash.com

Reference

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