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Balance & Harmony in Chronic Illness

2020 is now upon us, and that means a new blog theme for the year at MS Mommy Blog. 2020 is the year of vision: think about the importance of 20/20 vision, and the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” It is also a year of balance, something that happens once a century. With that in mind, I wanted to focus this year’s theme on balance and harmony. While the year itself holds no power, we can use it to remind ourselves of the importance of incorporating balance and harmony in our lives with chronic illness.

I feel that focusing our energy on personal balance and harmony is timely considering the surge of global unrest and the role this year plays in American politics. I promise never to get political on this blog, but what I will advocate is finding ways to give yourself a break when the news gets to be too much. 

2020 is a year geared towards making a commitment to yourself and finding what keeps you centered in the face of politics, painful news stories, your health, your professional life, and your personal life. There’s a lot to handle this year, so now is the time to say, “I can handle it healthily.”

Let’s take a quick look for what to expect for the rest of this year.

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, look forward to posts on the following themes:

  • Moderation in our habits & mind
  • MS Awareness
  • Further examination with self-compassion in the face of physical limitations
  • Learning to balance strong emotions
  • Working through mental imbalance and bringing that into harmony
  • Embracing self-acceptance
  • The importance of work-life balance with a chronic illness
  • Embracing self-care for overall satisfaction
  • In the face of uncertainty, finding internal balance
  • Healing from disappointment and external turmoil
  • What is inner peace and how to find it

Balance & Harmony in a Chronic Illness

So what is balance and harmony with a chronic illness?

I am hoping that this year will help answer that question. I have my ideas of what it looks like for me, but as I do an in-depth examination into what others say on the matter, I might find my answer changes. I want to spend this year exploring this theme not just for myself, but for my readers as well.

Like last year, I will be chronicling my journey as I learn more about myself and what helps me manage my MS

New Features to the Blog

2020 is a year of different opportunities for me that I want to share with you. I plan on having several new features that run weekly or monthly on the blog. These include:

The weekly newsletter will be revamped shortly, so look for new newsletters in the coming weeks. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, please do so now!

Attention to Chronic Illness Bloggers!

The MS Mommy Blog is looking to collaborate with other chronic illness bloggers for this year. If you have a chronic illness blog and would like an opportunity to tap into the MS Mommy Blog audience, please contact me here. I look forward to hearing from you.


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Sugar and Chronic Illness

This post was originally published in October 2017. I’ve updated it to include a follow up since the original publication. Find my thoughts on sugar and chronic illness under my update.

2019 Note: This was a check-in post relating to a series of diet changes I made. Because I was breastfeeding Jai, I could not take my MS medication until I finished. I wanted to find a way to manage my illness until I restarted my medication.


Cutting sugar went smoother than I expected, though there were a few days where I was irritable, according to Ash. I refuse to believe him, but deep down, I know he’s right. No longer having that emotional crutch makes for a very grumpy me.

Psychologically speaking, it was a lot easier than I expected. As long as I didn’t have sugary treats in the house (I tossed all of our sweets or sent them with Ash to work); I avoided buying sugary drinks (everyone knows that my weakness is a good Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall). If I had fruit for any sweet cravings, I was good to go. Every time I drove by a Starbucks, there was a temptation to pull in and just give in to that PSL craving, but I made sure to keep going and have a few bites of pineapple as soon as I got home.

A couple of times, I did eventually stop at Starbucks, and I made sure only to order an Americano. Before I was pregnant, I was in the habit of drinking all my coffee black unless it was a latte. It wasn’t hard for me to get back into drinking with nothing in them. I think it helped a bit too.

Coffee is a wonder drug (and sadly, probably something I need to add to my drop list), and can make a lot of things better.

I didn’t notice any headaches, though, at the beginning of the week, I was more sluggish and in need of an extra nap or two during the day. By the time Ash came home from work, I was very ready to pass Jai off to him, so I could lay down and not think or move for an hour. By day 3 or so, I had a little more energy, and by this morning (day 5), I had even more energy to do my running around without the need for a nap.

I also noticed that during my long run on Thursday, I was able to keep up with my mom and felt less fatigued at the end of it. I also felt motivated to go again this morning (though that would be off schedule). Me? Motivated to run off schedule? This really is unheard of – I hate running.

While shopping, I made sure to review all the labels like I said I would: any time it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or unidentified form of “sugar,” I would move along. From my research, they said that sugar is hidden in everything, and it really is true. Sugar is everywhere. Foods that I usually love to eat, like certain types of crackers or even grab-n-go frozen meals…all contain sugar. I also made sure to avoid agave and honey. If the item were sweetened with fruit juice or dates – I would be willing to grab it to consume.

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Recognizing Self-Doubt

In my most profound moments of self-reflection, I find that I am riddled with self-doubt that stops me from achieving personal goals. Self-doubt tells us that we are incapable of doing something and serves as discouragement disguised as good-intentions. When making significant life changes, we must recognize self-doubt for what it is, a possible road block, and find a way to cope with it.

We define self-doubt as a lack of confidence in ourselves and what we are capable of doing. It isn’t always an accurate assessment of our abilities but meant as a form of self-handicapping to protect our egos from possible failure. This is reductionist, as there are other reasons why people fall into self-doubt, but that’s what we’ll be focusing on.

We engage in self-doubt as an excuse to prevent us from moving forward in life. It’s important to recognize when this happens because sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Self-Doubt after Self-Reflection

I have a voice in the back of my head that pipes up after I’ve reflected on a situation. The situation may have ended unfavorably, where I behaved in a way I am not proud of, so I’ll start to reflect on what I could do in the future. The voice comes in after I decide my next steps and tells me that I won’t achieve it. It loudly proclaims that I still haven’t made the positive changes, so why would I begin now?

Obviously, it ignores all the times when I succeed in making positive changes in similar scenarios.

I think this self-doubt voice comes in after an emotional self-reflection because I am vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t a negative trait to possess, but my self-doubt comes in to take advantage of it. It works to sabotage all my hard work.

I believe self-doubt is our unconscious form of self-preservation. In our minds, we’ve created a specific persona for ourselves. It’s how we see ourselves interacting with the world and how the world interacts with us. It doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, but it’s the reality we’ve created ourselves.

When we start to change this persona and bring our perspective in line with reality, self-doubt seeps in because often the gap between our reality and actual reality is painful. Many years ago, I thought about how I was in High School. I had a brief thought that I was a difficult person to get along with, which was completely counter to the fantasy I created about being bullied.

The moment I had this thought it was so painful that my self-doubt and denial quickly flooded in to soothe the wound I gave my ego. I have since taken more time to self-reflect and found that while I was bullied, it had a lot to do with me painting a target on my back. I was unnecessarily confrontational, so the “bullying” was a response to that.

When we see something we don’t like about ourselves, we are working in direct defiance of the persona we’ve built up over a lifetime of experiences. Self-doubt works to preserve that personal for our emotional well-being. It’s well-intentioned, but it can keep us from moving beyond what keeps us stuck.

Self-doubt only serves to keep us within an unhealthy comfort zone.

The Danger of Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is the motivation killer.

We have many motivational killers out there, but self-doubt is one of the greatest ones. It’s the voice we listen to when we think we’re not good enough for something, or try and eat healthy, or what keeps us from striving for more.

Self-doubt is a voice that we listen to because it is always with us. I believed my self-doubt was some otherworldly voice responding to my requests for help on something. I thought it was an inspired voice speaking to me with omniscient wisdom, so when it said for me not to do something, it clearly knew what it was saying.

No, it was my self-doubt masquerading as the supernatural to keep me from trying harder or stepping outside of my comfort zone.

You may not have an otherworldly voice speaking to you, but there’s a good chance you have some internal voice telling you what you can’t do. When you engage with this voice, it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Looking Ahead

This month will be working to address the moments of self-doubt directly. Those times where we want just to give up and not move forward because we don’t think we can. This will be last month we focus on negative things in our self-improvement journey for this year. Stick through it so we can take a couple of months of appreciating ourselves and celebrating ourselves. It will be worth it in the end.


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Embracing our Imperfections through Forgiveness

At the beginning of the month, I discussed hating self-improvement. That’s still true: I hate having to do things for my own good. One of the many reasons why I dislike it is because self-improvement dredges up imperfections. When I hold up a mirror to myself, I see all the things I want to change and feel discouraged by what I must do. Self-compassion teaches that we should embrace our imperfections, specifically with self-forgiveness.

We desire to get as healthy as we can given our situation.

One way to do that is to move beyond what we view as imperfection. If you are like me and take each “imperfection” as a personal slight, there is a lot of resentment built up for yourself. In these moments it’s important to say “I’m sorry” to yourself, whether you mean it or not.

So at this moment, let’s collectively say “we’re sorry” and begin the process of healing.

Embracing our Imperfections

In my posts about self-compassion, I write about the importance of accepting our destiny to be imperfect beings. I’ve learned this the hard way. I grew up viewing my imperfections as blights rather than as opportunities for growth.

When I realized I needed to embrace my imperfection, I took a moment to apologize to myself, whether I needed to or not.

At first, I felt like the apologies were unnecessary. Why should I apologize for having a perfectly natural emotion, like anger? I don’t have to apologize for that moment I was socially awkward. I was apologizing for the wrong things to start: I wasn’t getting to the heart of the matter. But by beginning the process, I could see the moments where the self-apology was necessary.

I realized that I wasn’t actually apologizing for the anger. Anger is a normal emotion, and there is no need to apologize for it. But the consequence of my passion, the fallout where I spent hours berating myself for a small mistake. That I had to apologize to myself for. Each moment I engaged in self-destructive behavior, I owed myself an apology.

The behavior I engaged in would be unacceptable if a friend, family member, or stranger did it to me. Why should I accept the bullying behavior from myself?

If you’ve found that you mistreated yourself for whatever reason, consider taking a few minutes to apologize. Say it internally or externally. It can be as quick or as long as you need. But consider saying “I’m sorry,” to yourself.

Forgiveness as a Tool

When you apologize to yourself, forgiveness becomes a valuable tool. Studies reveal that the act of forgiveness lowers stress and helps aid in managing chronic illnesses. Forgiveness is self-compassion, where it provides us with an opportunity to heal and embrace ourselves as we are at this moment.

Let’s discuss what forgiveness is not: it is not about the pasting getting away with its actions; letting others get away with an injustice; nor is it about completely discarding personal pain.

Forgiveness is about no longer allowing the past having a negative hold on us. The past serves as an opportunity to inform our present and future, but we can let go of the control it has on us.

We extend compassion towards those who hurt us, especially ourselves when we embrace forgiveness. In these moments, we are giving up a lot of control, as holding onto the pain and resentment is a form of unhealthy control, and allowing ourselves to heal.

When you start to forgive yourself, hopefully, you’ll experience the consequence of getting out of a personal rut. You may find that all you are mentally waiting for is that apology and opportunity to say, “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness in Daily Life

Next time you have a moment of personal frustration, say you flubbed something due to memory fog or fatigue. You spend the next five minutes mentally ripping yourself a new one.

Stop. Take a breath. And say “I’m sorry for being so upset for that flub. I recognize it wasn’t necessarily your fault and you didn’t mean anything by it.” Say what you might want to hear from someone else.

Then stop again. Listen to those words and hold them in your emotional center. Say “I forgive you.”

Try not just to say it. Mean it. Forgive yourself for each perceived transgression you experience in the day. Open up your emotional center and feel the love that comes with forgiveness. Each time you start down a negative path, actively say, “I forgive you,” to yourself.

Use forgiveness as a stress-relief tool in your kit for combating your chronic illness. With some practice, you’ll find it will be easier to achieve daily. Recognize that you are worthy of your own love and compassion.


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I Hate Self-Improvement

We’re finally addressing what I’ve thought many times and I’m sure you’ve too: I hate self-improvement.

We can pack everything up. Everyone head home. The blog’s done. Everything’s been said that needs to be told and we can move on with our lives. It’s been really nice taking this near two-year journey with you.

Okay, we all know I am joking. I still have lots to write about, and I am not ready to finish. But let’s take a moment to acknowledge this truth: self-improvement stinks because it moves us into a space of feeling uncomfortable. As discussed in Monday’s post, Bishop writes about our tendency to be risk-averse when confronted with going outside our comfort zones.

Self-improvement only comes when we get outside our comfort zone and acknowledge that what we are doing is not working. When we stick to our ruts, we do not grow. When we stop growing, we are more susceptible to dissatisfaction.

Chronic illness does a lot to keep us in our place. We feel a lot of pain wrapped up in the diagnosis. Every day is a fight to manage our health, our time, and our lives. Asking ourselves to take that extra step to make simple improvements can feel unreasonable.

Settling into a mindset of hating self-improvement is easy. And that’s okay, you can hate it. You can hate it in the same way you hate exercising, but know you should take a few minutes a day; hate eating a particular way, but know it helps you feel better; and hate taking your disease-modifying drugs, but they keep you stable or alive. No one is saying that saying to make self-improvement changes with a smile on your face.

I refuse to believe people who make self-improvement/self-help their life don’t have moments where they hate what they are doing.

You may hate exercise, eating a certain way, or taking your medication, but you know you need to in order to feel and get better. The same with self-improvement. You can hate it, but it is good for you all the same. Remember this: making simple improvements can help you better manage your illness which is what I am encouraging you to do.

The Problem with Self-Improvement

Self-improvement takes us all down the same path. The scenery may look different, but the concept is always the same: figure out what we want to change, work to change it, deal with the challenges, then recognize there’s a roadblock we need to address before moving forward.

When confronted with that “roadblock” it can stop us in our tracks because it’s distracting, makes us feel bad, and seems insurmountable. It may even be something we’ve spent a lot of time avoiding. We don’t like it and want it to go away. But confronting this roadblock head-on will help get it to go away, or at the very least, get it to have less of a hold of us.

We must confront it to find success.

Let’s say you are trying to quit smoking. In the process of trying to stop you discover there is a pleasure you get because it reminds you of your grandmother who smoked. Smoking, on some deep level, is a connection to her. When you give up smoking, there’s a sense of that connection is lost. That might halt your desire to quit: you don’t want to lose your grandmother.

But the reality is this: you need to quit to improve your health, and smoking across the board exacerbates chronic illness symptoms. The same is for self-improvement: we need to make changes because what we are currently doing might exacerbate our symptoms.

I Hate Self-Improvement

2019’s been good so far, but I haven’t enjoyed all the aspects of self-improvement. I enjoy how my mood’s improved, the improvements I’ve seen, how I feel, but I wouldn’t say I’ve enjoyed the self-improvement. But it’s been tough to get to this place.

I dislike self-improvement. It’s an exercise like my running and it’s not easy. I was saying to Ash the other day how I want a mental and emotional break. But if I stop doing my mental/emotional exercises, if I “take a break,” I will revert back to my old way of doing things. A “break” would be tantamount to a backslide and I don’t want to do that.

For the record, self-care and a break would be two different things in this situation. What I need at this moment are self-care and self-compassion. A break would be halting self-improvement because it’s gotten tough.

If I want to be a less judgmental person, I have to push through those moments where I want a break, I want to give up. If I want to eat healthier, I have to resist carb-overload temptations. I have to fight my natural tendency to want to give up when the going gets tough.

Working through the Dislikes

When we spend time self-reflecting, we see things that we want to change. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that last month I asked readers to come up with five things they love/like about themselves and five things they dislike/want to change.

Take a few minutes to list out five things you dislike (do not use the word hate) about yourself. It can be anything and should be the first five things you think about. If you overthink about it, you dismiss your unconscious voice, and that’s who you are trying to listen to in this exercise.

Once you’ve developed this list, keep it somewhere safe so you can pull it out throughout the month. We will hopefully find a way to address your dislikes in a healthy way. But this month will be about working through your dislikes.

Beauty in Imperfection

As stated at the beginning of March, there is a beauty that grows from the mud. We want to look at those dislikes, perceived imperfections, and parts of us we want to change and honor them. Sure, we will work to change them, but it’s these imperfections that make us beautiful and unique. Even our chronic illness.

A preview for what’s to come: if you are a subscriber to the weekly newsletter we’ll be addressing our inner toddlers. Because though we may not want to admit it, that toddler is still inside all of us.

May is going to be a difficult month. I will be addressing a lot of the dislikes I have for myself, my perceived “flaws,” and any doubts I have about myself. But like everything, I will get through it. We will all get through it and see the beauty in our imperfections.


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