2019 was the year of the crucible. I underwent a lot of “lessons” in life; some brought on via self-reflection and others brought on by the natural flow of life. I learned a lot about myself, my capabilities, and where I see myself going in the future. In the three years, I’ve done these posts, it was the most challenging year emotionally, but the easiest year relating to my MS.
The Down Points
- From October to December, I encountered some of the most challenging months in my adult life. These months rivaled my diagnosis with all the emotional upheaval. I lost Lytton in November, one of my forms of emotional support, while dealing with other challenges at the time. It felt piled on.
- I continued to do a lot of heavy self-reflection, particularly with my role in my relationships and anger. The self-reflection often left me drained, but I am getting better at managing both.
- While I am getting better with my time management, I still struggle to get ahead on my work and stay ahead. With the past few months of upheaval, I’ve fallen drastically behind on several projects. I am struggling to get back into the swing of things. Additionally, I am grappling with being kind to myself because of this lag. I am seeing missed time as time wasted.
- I am fighting against a victim mentality that crops up when experiencing a downcycle. My cat passed, I am falling behind, I am struggling to achieve goals, etc. – all played into previous internal tapes of “woe was me.” I have moments where I curl up in bed with a book or my phone to escape, but I try to set myself a timer to break out of it and be productive again, even if it’s with one task.
- This last one needs to be at the end because it straddles a down point and positive point: getting back on my medication. The down aspects of getting back on Tecfidera: it definitively means Ash and I are stopping with Jai for children, it’s a physical acknowledgment of my MS, and the pain I am about to undergo with the first month of side effects.
The Positive Points
- I decided to re-start my medication because I knew it was the right thing to do for my health. By re-starting Tecfidera, I am creating a more significant buffer between my well-being and my MS. It is an insurance policy to help me manage my MS when I have another downcycle of stress/emotional change. It’s also a physical acknowledgment, to myself, that my health is worth it.
- I rediscovered my love of reading this year. It’s been over ten years since I sat down and read a book for pleasure. While in graduate school, I was afraid of wasting time on pleasure books when I could be doing research. I also found that graduate school temporarily blocked my love of reading because of all the heavy lifting I did. But I vowed to read more for the blog, so I started with audiobooks and graduated back into the physical medium. As I started getting into depths of the emotional upheaval that was this fall, I read more to escape. I found reading to be a soothing distraction, educational at times, and it also sets an excellent example for Jai. I plan to continue to read more in the coming year.
- While my time-management was less than ideal, I learned that the more organized I am, the more satisfied I feel. I also found that I am less stressed if I have a flexible plan in place. I am less likely to put things off, though I still have my moments of procrastination. If anything, I learned that I am one of those people who benefit from structure, minimalism, and organization.
- Last year I contemplated the role toxic friendships played in my life while feeling frustrated that a lot of my relationships had harmful elements. I recognized I stacked my friendship cards against me by rejecting or minimally pursuing positive relationships in my life. This year, I opened myself up to new relationships while maintaining my sense of self, something I hadn’t done before. Because of it, current friendships grew more profound, and I made a bunch of new friends along the way.
- My running took off this year. I ran in three different states (Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin), and even PR’d on a half marathon, almost making it below two hours. I officially decided that I would begin the process of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. While I have a long way to go (like running a marathon in the first place), it’s a goal I’ve created for myself to see what I can achieve. I think my running has helped me manage my MS and my emotional well-being, along with getting me in a healthier space.
- While it hasn’t been my most traveled year, I did get around the country quite a bit for 2019. I traveled to Florida for a Walt Disney World running weekend in January; I went to Las Vegas for my best friend’s birthday in March; and to Wisconsin twice (July & November) to visit with my in-laws. It was a year filled with a lot of new experiences, which I enjoyed very much.
MS Mommy Blog
I am proud of the direction the blog took this year, and I feel like I finally found the path I’ve been looking for with my writing. I enjoyed writing about wellness with a chronic illness more than I did writing about motherhood. I am no expert on how to handle life with a chronic disease, but I do enjoy sharing what I’ve found works for me.
Through this, I reaffirmed what I already knew: I love sharing what I know with others in a bid to bring comfort and help.
I say this but must acknowledge that the last few months set me back with my blog, writing, and all the related side-projects. The setback from the fall months hindered the growth of the blog, which is forcing some adjustments. I experienced an emotional injury that impacted my blog, not unlike a physical one. As with a physical injury, I must rest and take the necessary therapeutic steps to recover.
The first few months of the year will be sparse with posts as I recover and adapt, but I am hoping the blog will back in full swing come March.
What I’ve Learned in 2019
If I had to distill all the lessons I’ve learned in 2019 into one concept, it would be this: be fluid. I feel like I really embraced the motto I set forth for myself last year: “I am the only person who can make the changes that matter in my life. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, if I work hard enough, I will see a positive outcome in all the work I do.” It is essential to go with the flow when things are out of our control.
There are opportunities for us to accept or resist outcomes. Those are the battles we decide if they are worth fighting. But there are experiences where we have no control, and that’s when going with the flow is vital.
I learned I could choose to let a lousy driver bother me, or I can pull over and let them pass out of my life forever. I learned I could get annoyed at incompetent people, or I can remain patient until the situation resolves. I could try to cling on my desire to keep my cat alive, or I can let him go and acknowledge that his passing is part of life.
There are so many moments for me to get bogged down on the details of what happens around me that I can get stuck in a negative emotional space. Or, I can choose to put it into proper perspective and let it go. Each time I decided not to engage in bad behavior and went with the flow, I found that my stress-levels remained low. I found scenarios resolved faster and in a more pleasant way.
Even losing Lytton, I found my grief is not as profound as I expected it to be. To be clear, I am still hurt over not having him by my side, but I am in a better headspace than I expected.
By allowing myself to be fluid, adaptable, and self-compassionate, I feel like I am walking away from this year a more satisfied person than in the past. I am also excited about the New Year in a way I haven’t in a long time. I am genuinely curious to see what growth I am going to experience in the new year and what memories I am about to make.
2020 – A Year of Balance and Harmony
While the MS Mommy blog will be slow during the first few months of the year, we are entering a fun year: a year of balance (2020). We are also about to enter into a very divisive year, which can disrupt our emotional well-being. As people with chronic illnesses, it’s vital we maintain balance and harmony within ourselves to help manage our diseases. With that, I am making it a mission for myself and the blog to seek out balance and maintain personal harmony.
Look for themes on the blog relating to healing from external turmoil, self-acceptance, and finding balance in all aspects of life. As I write about each of these concepts, I will be working on them myself. I believe in taking these journeys together.
What I want to happen for 2020:
- Working harder on my time-management, so I can achieve the fabled “work-life” balance Millenials are seeking.
- Keep working on maintaining lower stress levels, and becoming the positive person I know I can be. I want to look back in December 2020 and say that I am someone that leaves people feeling good about themselves.
- I am lowering my engagement with elements that promote adverse reactions from me. An example: I find each time I become emotionally raw, I withdraw from social media. I realize that when I retire, it’s a form of self-care because social media tends to send me in a negative spiral. When I withdraw from my social media, I feel guilty, but I also find that I feel better. I want to be okay with limiting my exposure.
- Spend more quality time with Jai, since my whole goal for getting healthy was to do just that. I don’t feel like I spend enough quality time with him each day.
- Achieve one goal I’ve had since childhood. I am not sure which one that will be, but I want to begin to take the steps towards that end.
It seems that I’ve made this a bit of a tradition, where I create a motto for each year. Because of the potential turmoil, and my desire to focus on balance and harmony, I think this will be my 2020 motto:
“Despite all the external and internal conflicts we might face, we can still take the time to seek balance and harmony in our lives.”
Let’s see where 2020 takes us. Happy New Year!
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