Is More Better?

I fall into the trap of thinking more, newer, shinier is better. When a new phone generation comes out, I am counting down the days when I can trade my working phone in. If I am purchasing a new product, I always check to see when the company plans to release an updated version to avoid buyer’s remorse. One thing I dislike is buying a new gadget and finding out I could have waited a week for a newer one. Buying multiple devices to do one thing in my kitchen happens. I sometimes feel more is better.

Having a child changed my perspective. When the house started to get cluttered with toys, I realized more is not better. Less really is more. 

It was at the height of the Kon-Mari craze that I realized clutter was getting in the way of my satisfaction. But it wasn’t just physical clutter; it was mental clutter as well. I spoke about this in my two-part post about toxic relationships.

Sometimes I jam up my physical and mental space with a lot of stuff to feel distracted and in control. Upon reflection, I realize I am more out of control with the more stuff I accumulate. 

The Drive For Things

It’s a much longer post to dissect the human drive for “things.” Rather than doing a deep dive into psychological research on a macro-level, I want to reflect on my own experience accumulating “stuff.”

I think I, like many other people, buy into the idea that more is better and better makes me happy. It’s necessary to make that statement in the present tense because it is something I am currently working on. For example, I am attending a wedding soon. I feel a cultural drive to go out and buy a brand new dress for the occasion. I have at least one acceptable dress, yet I still feel this strong urge to get a new one.

Why is that? I honestly can’t explain it, and in light of recent celebrity events, purchasing a new dress isn’t environmentally sustainable.

I can’t help but feel like I am committing a social faux pas if I don’t buy a new dress. The bride doesn’t care; the groom doesn’t care, and no one but myself cares over this relative trifle matter. Yet the drive for more is there.

This drive for things is standard, at least for a person living in America. Our country grounded itself in Manifest Destiny, the journey forward, and for more resources. I do not imagine a cultural push towards accumulation; it is there, telling me I am discontent with what I have. Western culture, at large, thrives on materialism. 

Each time I want a newer phone, a newer kitchen gadget, a newer dress, I am engaging in that cultural drive for more stuff. But what happens when I get what I want?

According to science, wanting is all well and good, but our reasons for wanting material goods is problematic. We want things because we think that a new item will make us happy. Often, it does not because it does not solve the core issue: what makes us discontent. My wanting a new dress is stemming from a desire to show off something new. But will that make me happy? Probably not. 

Instead, I will feel bad for wasting resources on an article of clothing that I will either wear once or rarely. 

Limited Resources

With a chronic illness, we are limited in our resources. For some, our financial resources are low due to care costs, and for most of us, our mental resources are little due to the disease. 

We do not have the space for clutter. Yet, somehow I can convince myself a second slow cooker will be helpful around the house. Granted, it was an Instant Pot, and it has been beneficial, but now my older slow cooker is taking up precious space. 

Having extra things causes me anxiety, and that’s normal. I feel anxious every time I walk into the house and see something out of place. I am not looking for pristine perfection in my house, but not feeling overwhelmed by items would be nice.

It is the same with my mental clutter. When I have too much going on in my mind, too many things “to-do,” worries about social mistakes, or just general messy thoughts, I get anxious.

I believe, for me, accumulating stuff and thoughts are ways to control the environment around me. I’ve talked about my need for control before and how illusive control is in life. If I keep buying stuff, maybe some of those items will make my life easier. Often, they end up collecting dust because I go back to my old way of doing things. I end up wasting time, money, and learn nothing about how I don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken.

If I am looking to be more efficient with something, chances are I don’t need a new item, but can be creative with what I already have. When I am more resourceful, I find pleasure in the challenge and a solution that works.

Likewise, I clutter my mind by distracting myself with reading, gaming, and wasting time online because I don’t want to be alone with some of my thoughts. Occasional distraction is good, but we’re talking about spending days trying to keep my mind so distracted to avoid dealing with an issue. 

Reflecting on Moderation

So far, the best solution I’ve found for myself is to begin stripping down my life. I realized this in December 2019, before the Christmas Holiday. A holiday that embraces material excess, I recognized the need to move things out of the house before bringing in new stuff. We never excessively celebrate Christmas, but bringing in two new items is still two new things that need space.

Ash and I started to assess what we needed and what we could live without. Unfortunately, the first section was our books. We have hundreds of books that we don’t read, but take up space. We stripped down most of our collection, and I bought a Kindle PaperWhite. Another item! However, I can access most of the books I purged and utilize the local library online. I traded hundreds of books, hundreds of pounds of items, and multiple shelf spaces for a small, lightweight gadget. 

So while I still engaged in materialism, I did so in a smarter way. Rather than buying a new book that I may not read, I can borrow it when I am ready to read it, and it remains in a digital space. Since taking this small step towards moderation, I feel more relaxed. I have more space to store other items, and I no longer feel the need to acquire more physical books. 

I am living in one extreme, with too much stuff, and I am taking small steps towards moving towards the middle. I feel more in control because of it. I think because I am decreasing my desire to chase after things and reflecting on an intelligent way to spend my money. 

Likewise, with my thoughts, I am forcing myself to confront them more often. I still distract myself, but I make an effort to tackle a “to-do” item or soothe a negative thought at least once a day. The more I do in a day, without feeling overwhelmed, the better I feel. 

I am becoming balanced because I am learning to embrace moderation and appreciate the value of “less is more.”

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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Is it Weakness to Ask for Help?

Weak. Loser. Faking.

These words jumble around my head when I want to ask for help. I am afraid of appearing weak or taking advantage of others that I don’t ask for help even when I should. It’s hard to move beyond our thoughts, but when we do, we show our greatest strength. We acknowledge what we can handle and what we cannot. It’s is humbling asking for help, but it is a test of our character and the character of those around us.

Getting to that point of asking for help is hard. There’s a lot of cultural and personal baggage we must work through first.

Western Culture & the Weakness Narrative

My insecurity over asking for help does not come in a vacuum. Western culture, particularly in America, has a negative attitude for those who ask for help. If you have a chronic illness and need to go on disability or welfare, you know what I am saying. Drug testsnegative nicknames, and accusations of freeloading all make up the national narrative surrounding people who need to ask for public help.  

You can make the argument that these are examples of public help and not the same as asking those immediately around you. When the national discourse towards support is so hostile, it’s challenging to feel comfortable broaching the subject. Countless times I’ve wanted to start a conversation with an individual only to find their feelings on a particular matter do not align with mine, and they are rather passionate about it. It’s easier to stay silent than to open up.

This attitude against helping others is unrealistic and isn’t the truth. We often heard success stories and the individual thanks all of the people that helped them along the way. Mentors, networks, sheer luck all play a role in getting a person to meet their goals. 

But when we have an invisible illness and hear stories of discrimination, it is hard to want to reach out for help. Even if it’s getting a placard to park closer to a store because sometimes its easier to walk a bit farther than deal with notes, stares, or rude comments. 

If you live in America, as I cannot speak to other countries, it is a hostile environment to ask for help even if getting help is normal.

Internal Fears & Insecurities

Admittedly, much of what I just said has everything to do with personal insecurities. You may be lucky enough not to have a problem asking for help. But sometimes our illnesses tap into our insecurities by the very nature of the disease itself. We may not be able to control the feelings of uncertainty because the illness takes over.

But if you had insecurity over asking for help before your diagnosis, the chronic illness might exacerbate that insecurity. Now that I need help from others, I am more afraid to ask. I don’t look sick, I run frequently and act “normal,” so when I ask for help, I must be trying to take advantage?

These fears are unreasonable, and I completely acknowledge that, but I can’t stop them from popping into my head and preventing me from asking for help when I need it.

If we can ask for help, and do so with respect, then we won’t take advantage of others. You will probably flatter your friends when you ask because you’ve trusted them with a part of your life you may not show often. Think about the time others have asked you for help and how that makes you feel. You probably appreciate the opportunity to help someone you care about in some small way.

It shouldn’t be different when you are the one asking for help.

The Problem with Asking for Help

When we ask for help, there is a chance of rejection. What happens when we put ourselves out there, and we get rejected or a wishy-washy response? How do we handle that?

We also open ourselves up to criticism, comments, or unsolicited advice. How many times have you heard the “well, if you try this, my friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend found it helped them?” When you need help, it’s an open door for those sorts of comments. 

Rejection and “well-meaning” comments bring feelings of shame, so we might pre-empt those feelings by not bothering to ask.

Remember this: only you can let yourself feel shame. Only you can make yourself feel weak. Regardless of the response, you can choose to let the comments bother you, or you can decide it’s not worth it. If there is a pattern of a friend or family member making you feel wrong with their comments, then perhaps it’s time to move them down your life mountain.

Breaking Free from the Mindset

Ultimately, we have to suck it up and ask others for help. It’s easy to say this given societal pressures against asking for help, but we have to put our health first. If you want to be a help to those closest to you, then you must take care of your needs first.

When you ask for help, you aren’t revealing weakness, but strength. You are putting your vulnerabilities out there and showing that you are self-aware enough to need help. Often, I find people respond favorably to me when I unapologetically show my vulnerability.

Only you can make yourself feel exposed. People might comment to help support those feelings, but you can reject them in the same way they are rejecting you.


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Is a Higher Power Necessary?

If you don’t have a higher power or belief system, is it necessary to have one to help manage your chronic illness?

No. No, it is not necessary.

If you have a higher power and feel satisfied, then this post is not for you. This is for the small percentage that are either ambivalent about their beliefs or actively do not believe in anything. This post is for those who have to navigate the all-too-familiar field of well-intentioned family and friends who say, “I will pray for you,” or “if you believe in this higher power, you will be healed.”

These forms of unsolicited advice can raise feelings of misplaced shame, put us on the defensive, or create an awkward interaction. If you find that you navigate these scenarios with ease, then this post may not be for you.

Instead, this post is meant as comfort for those who may have recently de-converted or questioning, and emotions might be rawer.

If It Isn’t Broke…A Disclaimer

The summary of this post is this: if you live without a higher power and that works for you, then do not let yourself get distracted by others telling you that you need one. Only you know what works best for you, and if you find more comfort outside of organized belief, then embrace that comfort.

Once I de-converted, I found more peace in my life. But it took a long time to feel comfortable with that peace. There are still a lot of raw emotions I am working through, so sometimes hearing the language can cause me stress and shame. 

I’ve learned that I need to accept the words and intentions of others with grace, not resentment or shame while standing firm in my decision.

The Distraction of a Higher Power

Most of the time, when people have a higher power or organized belief system, it is a built-in source of comfort. If you need a distraction, guidance, or a focal point, your higher power can provide that. Because of this, often for others who have a higher power, they want to share the comfort and peace they get with you.

It works for them, so it will obviously work for you. I am fond of saying this on my blog as much as possible: what works for me may not work for you. The same goes for belief: your mileage may vary.

Additionally, when I hear people tell me that I need to place my concerns in the higher power I deconverted from, it can be painful to hear. It reminds me of the negative experiences I had and pushes me back into a dark place. It puts me into an awkward space of not knowing what to say or wanting to respond sharply. 

Getting told to turn to a higher power becomes emotionally and mentally distracting. When coping with a chronic illness, being unnecessarily put into a space of shame, even if the other person is well-intentioned, is unhelpful.

If you do not believe in anything or think differently, hearing someone proselytize is irritating because you aren’t coming from the same starting point. If you don’t believe in anything, those words can ring hollow and feel like a wasted exercise on their part. It distracts from the opportunity to have a different or more meaningful conversation with them.

Unfortunately, it’s Not About You

When others start telling you what you need in your life, it isn’t about your needs. It’s about them and what they need to do.

When I came to this realization, I found it easier to handle these interactions. When someone tells you they will intercede on your behalf to their higher power, or that you need to believe in that higher power, it’s giving them comfort. It brings them comfort; therefore, it will bring you comfort, so they want to share it. Or they feel powerless, and the idea of appealing to a higher power gives them a sense of helping you. 

Now, I just listen to what they have to say, say “thank you,” and try to shift the conversation to something else. I find it strangely comforting knowing that someone cares enough to share this with me. Today’s climate is rather hostile to outward expressions of faith, at least in my community, and it takes a lot of courage for the individual to put themselves out like that for me.

Consider a Greater Cause

I mentioned this at the beginning of the month, the idea of a greater cause. A greater cause is not a religious belief, but something outside of yourself that motivates you in life. It can be a form of activism, volunteering your time, or a professional or health goal.

Finding a purpose outside of yourself can provide you a similar distraction a higher power gives someone else. It can ground you, guide you, and provide fulfillment. When others ask you what you believe, you can redirect towards this cause if you are open to having that conversation.

It can give you the strength you need to handle the awkward conversations because you do have something equally important in your life.

Know that you possess the ability to decide what is best for you. Others generally come from a well-meaning place when they tell you about their higher power. When they do, know that it’s not necessarily for you, but to provide them comfort. Shift the focus of the conversation away from the topic as graciously as possible, and reframe it as them caring genuinely about you.

It won’t be easy every time, but it might make these interactions less awkward.


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Engaging in Positive Self-Talk

Back in May, I wrote about the negative internal talk I experience. For a long time, it was the loudest voice in my head. We all engage in self-talk daily. All day; every day. The self-talk can be positive, or in my case, it can be detrimental. When it takes a negative turn, it brings our mood and motivation down. When we engage with positive self-talk, we embrace a loving relationship with ourselves.

It’s hard to shift our negative self-talk into a more positive one: when we are used to the talk being a particular way, especially when it’s become background noise, it’s hard to know how to change the internal narrative. What this requires is a mindful practice, self-compassion, and gratitude for the moments we’re able to shift to a positive dialogue.

It’s going to take time and practice. But we can do it because we have the desire to have a healthier inner life.

Shifting Negative Self-Talk to Positive

As John Gary Bishop wrote in Unf*ck Yourself, engaging in positive self-talk isn’t going to be last stop on your self-improvement train. Rather, it’s positive actions that get you to improve, not thoughts. But, I would argue that shifting away from self-defeating talk helps motivate us into those positive actions.

If you walk around believing you can’t do something, chances are you won’t take the risk to try it, or set yourself for failure from the beginning. You fall into the trap of confirmation bias: I believe I can’t do this, I don’t succeed as I thought; therefore, I am right. I can’t do this.

So how do we shift away from the negative self-talk? One way is to be aware that it is happening. My negative self-talk was such background noise that I don’t think I was fully aware of it happening at the moment. I had gotten so used to it buzzing in the back of my mind that when something confirmed the negative noise, I would say, “of course, this happens. Of course, I messed up.”

When we take a more mindful approach to our internal dialogue, the thoughts that operated in the background come to the front of our mind, loud and clear. I sat for thirty seconds, engaging in mindful practice when no fewer than five separate negative thoughts popped into my consciousness that I wasn’t even aware of. I was able to address each of them with loving kindness so they would quiet down before the next set popped up.

Now that I knew these negative thoughts existed, I could hear them more clearly when they popped up again during non-mindful moments. I could address them directly again until they eventually quieted down altogether.

By having a heightened awareness of the thoughts and what they are trying to say, we can find the best ways to counter them. The quieter the negative thoughts become, the louder the loving thoughts get. Those, we want to encourage as much as possible.

The Advantage to Openness

When you grow more open to yourself, you become more open to your deepest thoughts and feelings about yourself. You create a more realistic image of yourself, and hopefully can see yourself as others see you.

Which can be a terrifying thought in of itself, but if we want to change, we want to have the self-awareness to know what needs to change. By being open to your inner life, you can see how it affects your external life on an unconscious level.

You may surprise yourself with what you learn. That leads me to an important question.

What do you Want to Learn about Yourself?

It’s an easy enough question, but we don’t often ask it because we might not be willing or ready for the answer. But the answer is important if you want to change your internal narrative from negative to positive.

I asked this question of myself back in January, and I did not like the answer: I am an echoist. This means I struggle to express my own opinions, I don’t want to be a burden to others, and I have an intense fear of coming across as selfish. I had a weak sense of identity, which leads me to engage in toxic relationships because that’s what I thought I deserved.

It was a blow to my ego, but it was so enlightening. It placed my internal dialogue, life decisions, and behavior in relationships into proper perspective. I was finally able to see myself as others saw me.

Because I answered this question and worked with all the associated implications of that answer, I finally addressed the negative dialogue in my head. I could start nurturing my own identity, which is confident and independent and does not accept the negative internal talk.

I unraveled one of the final pieces of my personal puzzle. Healing could begin.

So, what is it that you want to learn about yourself?

You may not arrive at an answer right away, it will take time as you peel back the layers, but you might be able to find a temporary solution until another one pops up. The answer will be different for each of us, and what you do with that answer will be different too.

Engaging in Positive Self-Talk

For the rest of this week, take time to address your negative dialogue and flip it into positive self-talk. See what it feels like when you engage in the positivity. Do you feel better? Do you feel calmer?

Hopefully, you’ll arrive at a positive place which can help you make healthier decisions for yourself and push you forward in your wellness journey.


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The Internal Voice of Self-Doubt

In May, I discussed growing up with a negative internal voice and the long-term damage it caused in my adulthood. This voice shaped my inner monologue that I still listen to today, which impacted my ability to have meaningful relationships with others. Additionally, this voice is the source of my internal self-doubt.

I hear this voice the loudest when I am working on essential tasks that require self-motivation. If I am training for a run, it’s that voice that tells me I can’t make it up a hill without stopping. I try to combat it by setting mini-goals, “if I make it to that lamp post, I can walk.” If I focus too much on that mini-goal in the distance, the voice will sometimes win out by stating again (and again) that it’s too far away. I’ll stop to walk because I cannot cut through the discouragement.

I give into that voice more often than I would like.

You may not struggle with self-doubt as much as I do, which I hope remains the case for you throughout your life. But if you do, even for a little bit, I hope you’ll find some comfort and reassurance in these posts.

The Internal Voice of Doubt

For many, self-doubt comes from a childhood where the child grew up to believe they weren’t good enough. Children of narcissistic parents or parents with narcissistic tendencies often struggle with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. These parents made the child feel like they were never good enough, and when this happens, the child struggles to regulate their feelings of self-doubt.

My self-doubt voice grew the loudest in graduate school and immediately after my MS diagnosis. I ended up coupling chronic illness with my self-doubt to give myself more excuses as to why I couldn’t do something.

I can’t do this because of my fatigue. I can’t do that because of my MS memory issues. Why did I think I was capable of starting this project? I am never going to be good enough to get a job in this field, so why am I trying?

I gave into this voice so much that it stalled all progress in the program and nearly prevented me from going out and achieving my professional goals. While MS may not have created my self-doubt, it helped exacerbate it.

Getting Stuck

Reading Gary John Bishop’s book, Unf*ck Yourself, was an eye-opener for me. Bishop’s point about staying in our comfort zones resonated with my moments of self-doubt: when we stay in our ruts, we don’t challenge ourselves. When we don’t challenge ourselves, we are listening to an internal voice that says we can’t (or won’t) succeed.

Our self-doubt hates change. It hates to be challenged. When we hear that voice yelling that we can’t make it up a hill during a run, it’s saying that our task is too hard even if it’s for our own good.

Self-doubt saves us from unfamiliarity.

Those in high-powered careers or in graduate schools may have heard the term “imposter syndrome.” You start to doubt your abilities or knowledge so much that you find it extremely difficult to move forward.

Or, if you don’t deal with imposter syndrome, then perhaps you struggle to take positive feedback from others. Each time you receive a compliment, you deflect it or denigrate yourself because you don’t believe what is being said about you.

Whether it’s imposter syndrome or unable to take a compliment, both stem from being too afraid to see ourselves as worthy of anything. Self-doubt keeps us stuck and wanting to move forward because we believe we aren’t worth it.

Listening to the Wrong Voice

You know the phrase “squeaky wheel gets the oil,” right?

Unfortunately, our internal voice of self-doubt tends to be extremely loud, therefore sucks up most of our attention. Sometimes, it’s hard to ignore or brush that voice aside. If you are dealing with self-doubt that carries over from childhood like me, then it can be pretty painful to listen to and indulge that voice.

Yet, that voice is probably keeping you from making the changes you want to make in your life. Your chronic illness exacerbates this voice. Unfortunately, the solution is finding a way to either ignore or work around that voice so it becomes a muffle. The unfortunate part is that this won’t be an easy task to do.

Like running up that hill during my training, we’re about to embark on a challenge that will have you wanting to stop before reaching your goal. Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss some tools and examples of calming that voice of self-doubt.

Know that you are not alone in this journey. You are worth taking these steps, despite what that voice might tell you.


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