Before Christmas, I was given the gift of a massage. Something I never have the time or money to arrange for myself. It was blissful, a combination of Swedish massage techniques and lymphatic drainage (lymphatic drainage being apparently beneficial for MS – though I’m not sure of the science on that).
It was a rare hour of time concentrated solely on me, as the masseuse worked away the knots in my muscles and eased away the tension I was holding.
As I returned home on the bus, in a bubble of zen, I thought about how I should be doing things that made me feel that way all the time – for my emotional and physical wellbeing. I bought the Overcoming MS (OMS) book recently, which contains a whole host of recommendations – dietary and lifestyle – for things that have been shown to improve the course of MS.
One measure the OMS plan recommends is regular meditation. This is to offset the effects of stress, something that can have a profound detrimental effect on MS. I’ve seen for myself how increased stress can provoke a relapse so I know I need to remove it from my life as much as I can. It’s difficult to fit time in for meditation though, when I’m so busy with work, and ‘life admin’, as well as the tasks chronic illness brings.
I’m also a bit squeamish about the concept of self-care in general. It feels so first- world, so self-indulgent. It’s really hard to justify taking time for myself when there are so many other, ‘worthier’ things I could be doing. But then, if I’m doing something else I’m not taking a proactive approach to managing my MS, an approach which would make me feel more in control and might improve my long-term prognosis. I’ve started thinking about self-care as something I need to do for myself to ensure I can do all the other things I need to. Like on an aircraft, when you are told to fit your own oxygen mask before fitting your children’s.
Reading the OMS book has made me see life with MS slightly differently – I am starting to see it as a life of constant maintenance. I need to care for myself in a way I haven’t really before, giving myself space to protect myself from stress, eating the right things, getting enough sleep and doing whatever exercise I can to try to guard against further loss in function.
I’ve been looking for ways to build some time for myself into my day, time I can use to relax and ward off stress. I’m starting simple with a bath on a Sunday morning, listening to the Archers and trying to remove myself mentally from the chaos of every day life. I hope that these little steps will lead to a shift in my thinking, from trying to care for everyone else to sometimes putting myself first.