2018: A Reflection

Reflecting on 2018, it was another decent year for me. It had relatively few downs and quite a few ups. I learned even more about myself, some of the stuff I already figured and other things that surprised me.

In what is becoming a tradition for the blog, I’ve decided to reflect upon the bigger lessons and victories I learned throughout the year and some personal goals I have for 2019.

The Down Points

  • I did a lot of emotional heavy lifting this year. I realized I had several friendships that left a negative impact on me. I documented what I learned about this in my two posts about toxic friends (Part 1 & Part 2) and what I learned about my role in these relationships.
  • My limitations were made obvious at several points throughout the year. This ranged from temporal limitations, i.e. not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything I wanted; to fatigue still being a major roadblock on a day-to-day basis.
  • I did have a few mild flare-ups this year, but nothing major or of huge concern. I found a spot in my vision that was more of an annoyance than anything else, though it went away rather quickly as soon as I de-stressed. A few moments of numbness, and my L’Hermittes Sign making an appearance when I was particularly stressed and sleep-deprived. I did experience a new symptom: MS Hug and that wasn’t very loving at all.
  • I wasn’t as strict with maintaining a healthy diet throughout the entire year and have gone back to some very bad eating habits for the holidays. My mindset shifted half-way through the year of how I viewed myself (more on that below), but my eating habits haven’t followed.

The Positive Points

  • In reflecting on the negative impact of toxic friendships, it hurt to lose what I deemed to be decent friends, but I found that by no longer allowing the negativity I had less stress overall. It was particularly freeing to start recognizing that I could choose to be with those who treat me well, rather than settling to be around those who didn’t.
  • 2018 was a less stressful year for me overall. That isn’t to say there wasn’t stress in my life or stressful periods (many of my own making), but I found that I handled stress so much better this year than I have in the past which has led me to feel more content with myself.
  • I officially spent the entire year in a healthy weight range which was a first in a long time. In fact, I don’t remember when was the last time I spent such a long period of time in a healthy BMI. Besides feeling good emotionally, I feel fantastic physically with more energy to keep up with Jai.
  • Ash and I were talking a while back and he made a great point about who I am now physically speaking. I am a runner and an athlete, something I never thought I would even consider myself, especially growing up with asthma. I completed 2 half marathons this year, PR’d in several of my races and have a full year of running planned in 2019. That said, my eating habits haven’t necessarily matched the runner’s lifestyle, but I have a plan on handling that this coming year
  • On paper, I always viewed my MS as an opportunity to refocus my priorities and to a certain extent I did. But this year I really committed to turning my diagnosis into something positive thing. I finally made the “someday” changes I’ve wanted to make for a decade or so.

MS Mommy Blog

The blog still is such a positive influence in my life and I’ve learned a few things about myself because of it. Without the ability to truly reflect on my relationships and MS, I probably would still be stuck in an emotional rut. But because I decided that I needed to write about my MS story and how I was coping with some heavy emotional concerns, I did a deeper self-reflection that I think made a lasting impact on my overall attitude.

I found that while it was nice to share some of my parenting thoughts and experiences, the blog really needs to refocus itself on healthy living and living with a Chronic Illness. I wanted that to be the main focus of the blog when I started it, but I got off track in 2018. I have begun the process revamping the blog with that in mind, and all will be revealed in the new year.

What I’ve Learned in 2018

To truly let things go, not just say that I am letting it go.

When I let things go, it makes for less stress in the long-term. I also recognized there is a lot of negativity in the world and my contributing to it by being negative back or dwelling too much on the negative wasn’t helping anyone, nor providing a positive example for Jai.

I have learned that the best way to be stress-free is to plan ahead in many aspects of my life. Not regimented with no flexibility, but being more prepared, writing things down either in a list or as a plan, and therefore minimizing stress. When I have a list or plan of action for the day, I find I am more efficient which makes me happy because I dislike feeling unproductive.

It sounds cliche, but I finally understand – or rediscovered – what they mean when “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” It takes a lot of work, but I am finally seeing the personal reward for the running, blogging, and self-reflection. I’m finding it’s feeding into itself and I want to keep doing more.

Making 2019 My Year

For 2019, this is where I want to be:

  • Accept that I am an athlete now and that I should really commit to an athlete’s lifestyle. This includes eating habits, training, and making decisions that will help me reach my personal running goals.
  • Additionally, I want to continue to be meeting and exceeding my personal records in running. I don’t think I will ever place in any races, but I will push myself to get times I never thought I would imagine for myself. Several years ago I couldn’t imagine sustaining a 10-minute mile. I ran that for Thanksgiving. How fast will I be this time next year?
  • Continuing to embrace a calm, positive, and stress-free living. Learning to not feel guilty when I decide that this mindset is more important to my overall health than giving into previous behaviors.
  • Having a more “ant” attitude in life. Remember Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper? I have become more ant-like as a means of managing my life, blog, and parenting, which is to say that I plan & prep ahead of time in order to make more time for Jai throughout the day. I will be more focused on getting ahead as a form of disease-management.
  • Becoming the person I saw myself being when I reflected on my life-goals at 15. I will be elaborating more on what this means over the upcoming weeks, but I want to be what 15-year-old me wanted me to be at 35.

2019 As a Teaching Opportunity

Last year I gave 2018 the motto keep letting it go, no distractions, and push forward.” I found that I stuck by this motto pretty closely and it helped keep me moving forward emotionally, mentally, and physically. I want to keep this motto in the back of my mind and add a new one:

“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.”

I am going to embrace all that 2019 has to offer, for good and for bad and see where the coming year takes me.


Want to join me in a successful 2019?

Before you go, please sign-up for the new MS Mommy Blog newsletter. It will be sent out once a week on Fridays in lieu of my normal Friday posts (no spam or excess emails, I promise!). In the newsletter, you’ll find the 2019 Wellness Challenge, tips, articles, and freebies exclusively for newsletter subscribers.

This challenge will be specifically geared towards people with a chronic illness (not just MS), though people who do not have a chronic illness are welcome and encouraged to join us this year.

This challenge is based on making gentle and gradual changes both superficially and on a deeper level. No judgments will be made and this challenge will be tailored to you and your needs. At MS Mommy Blog, we’re about being supportive and loving to ourselves and others.


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Food & September

Food is something I love and I love to share that love with others. I hope you enjoyed reading and trying some of the recipes – my favorites were the pumpkin spice latte and the celebration cake. Both go perfectly together and are relatively guilt-free if you’re watching what you eat.

I enjoyed sharing what I am doing with Jai to encourage his love of food and how I plan to minimize picky eating should it arise. Jai has already expressed an interest to help me in the kitchen which I hope to continue to foster into adulthood as much as possible.

We’re in the kitchen for some more goodies in the upcoming months that I am looking forward to sharing, so keep your eyes open (and make sure to follow MS//Mommy if you don’t already) for new and exciting recipes.

Looking ahead

There are going to be some changes in the next three months at MS//Mommy. I am dropping down to a twice-a-week posting schedule, so posts will be on Tuesdays & Thursdays instead of the Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.

If you follow my social media accounts, you’ll still see my “repost” Saturdays.

I wanted to spend the next couple of months working on some side projects relating to the blog and overhauls to the site now that I’ve been doing this for a year. To ensure that I am still providing quality posts, I decided that a twice-a-week schedule would be best for the rest of the year.

Speaking of social media accounts: if you don’t already follow me – please check out my Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. There you’ll get extra articles, thoughts, and pictures relating to the blog.

Here’s to October – one of my favorite months of the year!


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


Wellness Month Wrap Up

This was a mixed month of results for me.

Dealing with the stomach infection took a lot away from my ability to fully engage with my month of wellness. I had hoped to kick my training into high gear for a major 10k in July and while I still have time, I feel woefully behind because of the necessary 2-week break due to medication side effects. But taking breaks are sometimes necessary to allow a body to recover.

No shame in that.

Now that I am back to feeling better, I’ve restarted my running and feeling better because of it. On Saturday I ran a 4-mile race with my mom and we both exceeded our timing expectations. No PR’s, but neither of us are behind in our training. This was a validating discovery.

I found the most successful aspect of the month was my phone detox. It reduced my overall stress and increased my productivity. I have even found that it’s helped me restart my love of hardcopy reading. I’ve been screen reading for so long that I’ve forgotten how much I love the feel of old-fashioned paper. Jai is also discovering books, so renewing my love is beneficial to both of us.

Revitalizing Resolutions

I think checking in and reaffirming resolutions every four months is a good idea. I don’t believe I need to spend an entire month to doing so, but perhaps in August, I can remember to check in and see how I feel about my progress.

Checking in gives me time to work on my habits and make effective adjustments, but also prevents me from self-nagging to the point of personal frustration or discouragement. One thing I’ve learned this month is that progressing slow and steady is more effective than trying to rush or push myself to fast.

The fable was onto something: slow and steady may not always win you the race, but it will get you over the finish line. Achieving my goals are more important than the speed in which I get them accomplished.

 

Wellness Within and Without

It’s important to remember that wellness begins internally, not just an externalization through exercise. By taking the month to check on my internal well-being with phone detox and promoting self-confidence, I am helping ensure the longevity of my external manifestations of health.

Building a strong internal foundation will help me work through moments of doubt or defeat. Being self-compassionate will also help me take it easy on myself when I am tempted to give up on my goals. We all have down periods, just learning to work through them and move beyond is key once we’re ready.

Wellness All Year

Focusing on wellness shouldn’t be a one month out of the year thing or at the beginning of the year for resolutions. It’s an all year journey, one that has its ups and downs, but being okay with the ebb and flow is important to maintaining motivation.

What are some of your favorite wellness tips or tricks? What have you learned about yourself while working on your New Year’s resolutions? Comment with your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Page for other articles and tips based on my weekly posts. It’s a great way to connect with others and me!


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Revisiting a Phone Detox

On Monday, I decided to take a much-needed break from my phone and putting restrictions on my usage for Jai’s sake and my own. I found the process both daunting and freeing and plan to keep the forward momentum I’ve gained by limiting my phone usage.

How the Week Went

Overall, I found myself to be more productive.

While I still found I spent a lot of time on my phone, it was doing more productive work like checking my social media accounts for the blog, interacting with other bloggers, and whatnot. But more importantly, I found myself no longer making excuses for getting ahead and working on some side projects that have been on the backburner for a while.

I am not surprised at how much of a distraction my phone is in my life.

I suspect that I use it as a tool to keep me from pursuing more important personal goals. I am someone who has an insecurity when it comes to the threat of failure, so I use my phone as a means to distract myself from the task at hand. If I don’t complete a task I’ve set out for myself, I can’t fail. It really doesn’t make sense when you look at it objectively.

The point is this: my phone was used as a means to keep me stagnant. I waste time doing unimportant tasks with no tangible benefit in order to avoid tangible productivity that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This week I turned towards more tangible tasks.

I worked off of my paper planner more which increases my productivity versus my electronic calendars and apps. Try as I might, I can’t get away from the allure of physically writing something down as a means to commit something to memory or plan something out.

The Most Difficult Part

Night time was the hardest time to manage because I tried to ration my time out with my various apps to save for bedtime. I have a very bad habit of needing to use my phone to fall asleep. Looking at a phone screen up to three hours before going to sleep can affect you sleep health and habits. I fall asleep most nights with my phone on and in my hand.

Not good.

I bought a dimmable book light and pulled some books I’ve been meaning to read and put them by my head to help facilitate the process of turning to books as a means of falling asleep rather than my phone. I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting there.

Kat, a blogger at the Lily Cafereminded me of this on Monday: remove the phone from the bedroom altogether. Having at least one phone is a good idea in case of an emergency so it would have to be Ash’s, but I should probably leave my phone charging in the kitchen at night.

It will prevent me from reaching for it when I wake in the middle of the night. I find that once awake and on my phone, I have a harder time falling asleep. I start thinking about things as I read social media or I get wrapped up in banal game tasks that an hour or two has passed without me falling back to sleep.

Known Personal Benefits

On the nights I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone I found that I slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning. This, in turn, helped boost my productivity.

By reincorporating books in my daily life I am rediscovering the joy I had of reading. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years because it’s easier to have on in the background when chasing a toddler.

Jai is also helping reignite my love: he will sit for extended periods of time in his room just flipping through his books. He’s not reading, we’re nowhere near that yet, but he is looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy whatever is internally playing out in his head.

Some days I am able to entice him to naptime by putting a favorite board book in the crib and he’ll sit contentedly flipping through the book until he falls asleep or throws it out of the crib.

This week I’ve taken to reading my books to him. They are dry, boring parenting books, but books I’ve been meaning to read for the blog and for myself. I read during the times I would be on my phone to distract myself while he engaged in independent play. Sometimes he wants to hear me read, other times I read silently.

Either way, it feels good to be doing that again. I feel guilty about reading books while in graduate school because I feel like I should be reading academic books rather than pleasure or enrichment books. I am learning to let go of that guilt and just enjoy the hobby that drove me to graduate school.

I also feel my time spent with Jai is more meaningful and no longer squandered. Sitting in a corner of his room while on my phone always felt like I was taking his toddler moments for granted. My biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret spending time on my phone rather than interacting with him.

I do not believe every waking moment should be spent interacting with Jai, having the independent play and alone time away from mommy is good for his development, but I also would rather spend my idle time doing something productive and less distracting. My absorption in my phone is so full that it can be hard to break away versus I find it easier to put a book down when he needs my attention.

Moving Forward

This week was a small step in decreasing my dependence on technology. I had my moments where I had to pause app limits because it was necessary to spend an extra five minutes on a problematic app for communication purposes.

I find that I still used my phone more than I would like, but it was getting down to a more acceptable time sink.

I plan on keeping my app blocker and further limit my technology usage by incorporating productivity extensions on my browser. I don’t want to stop using technology for fun altogether because as I stated on Monday, technology has always been a hobby since childhood, I just want to manage that time better and make sure it doesn’t take up all of my time.

Technology isn’t the enemy in my life, it’s a fantastic tool that I want to use and embrace. I just want to make sure that I am being healthy both as a means of achieving my personal goals and avoiding stagnation while modeling balanced behavior for Jai as he gets older.

 


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Personal Health Check-In

Today I will be reflecting on my overall health, how I am feeling physically and mentally, and also talking about my MS Symptoms and if I’ve noticed any changes with the lifestyle changes I’ve made.

Physical Health

I am close to peak health right now. I have lost enough weight that I am no longer in the “overweight” BMI range but in the “normal” range.  I haven’t seen this number since before high school.

I have found that I feel lighter and less sluggish, though that may have more to do with my metabolism. Regardless, I wanted to find a natural way to get more energy and I have succeeded.

With the good, comes the bad: I had a couple of days where my stomach hurt after eating and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After visiting two different doctors, I found out that I have h.pylori. I suspect I picked it up from contaminated water caused by a water main break back in early March. We boiled water and followed the warnings, but the county was slow on placing a boil advisory and probably too quick in lifting it. I am currently on the recommended antibiotic regimen, and I wouldn’t wish those horse pills on anyone.

To balance that out, since I am destroying my gut bacteria, I have upped my probiotic intake via supplements and drinking a lot of kombucha.

I do suspect that I might have a lactose sensitivity in addition to this infection because my stomach would hurt almost every time I had dairy. The source of the pain was inconsistent because it would happen after eating other foods too, but after eating something high in lactose it would inevitably cause some sort of pain.

On the days where I don’t eat any dairy, I feel absolutely normal. Especially during this minor reset: I haven’t had any stomach pain since Wednesday.

As Ash says, I’ve reset my body to the point that I cannot enjoy some of the foods I used to; my body is now a finely tuned machine and I need to be careful what type of fuel I put into it.

This stinks because if I had always wanted to go back to eating dairy products, I really can’t because I don’t like how I feel afterward. I know there are some measures I can take to cheat now and then, but it is clear that my body is treating lactose the same way it treats sugar: beginning to reject the stuff. This isn’t a surprise because I always suspected I had a dairy sensitivity since I was a kid, but like with sugar, I would ignore any symptoms I had in favor of eating cheese.

I am looking at this as a plus: by removing dairy from my diet I am lowering my flare-up chances. Back when I did research for the week I dropped dairy, I found out dairy contains a protein that can increase my chances of a flare-up. Basically, I can’t cheat and have a nibble of dairy whenever I want.

I am one of those people that, even if I can handle it, I tend to not want to do anything that could inconvenience myself. It’s just easier to avoid dairy and sugar than deal with the consequences of how I feel afterward. I may try lactaid if I absolutely want to eat something with lactose, otherwise avoiding the matter altogether is easier for my well-being.

Mental & Emotional Health

These physical changes have helped with my mental health.;

I am feeling better mentally, with the occasional down moment, but overall I am doing well. Keeping busy with the blog and feeling productive has helped improve my mood. I think by feeling productive, I don’t feel like my MS is bothering me as much as it does.

 

I am finding that I am working very hard to be more compassionate and self-compassionate. That has helped lower my intense emotions significantly. I am finding things don’t bother me as much as they used to which has been really helpful in getting through the day. I feel that I’ve been providing Jai with a good example because of it.

MS Health

Overall, I don’t really notice a huge difference in my symptoms since my last check-in. I find that by removing certain things from my diet helps give me a minor energy boost because I am not feeling bogged down. But the difference tends to be negligible.

I still have issues with fatigue and mental fog, but my L’Hermittes Sign and MS Hug haven’t made a reappearance since February for which I am grateful.

I have an appointment with my neurologist later this month, but without an MRI, so I will be updating with his assessment of my overall condition. I count not needing an MRI as a personal win: I don’t hate getting them, but it means my neurologist believes my condition is stable enough that an MRI is unnecessary.

I talked about restarting my drug-therapy once Jai weans from breastfeeding, but I am finding it hard because of how good I’ve been feeling without it. Not going back on Tecfidera means that I will be putting my long-term health at risk of progressing into SPMS, so there is a lot of important things to consider if I do decide to hold off a while longer.

The Takeaway

That’s how I am feeling overall and I would say that I am feeling pretty good. It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would have to say taking it a little bit at a time has helped. Remembering not to put too much pressure has helped keep me going on the lower-motivation days.


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