Exclusive Content

Another “New Normal” – Adapting to the Unpredictable Changes and Phases of MS 

By Mary Pettigrew

As we all toss out the old and bring in the new, I’m looking forward to bringing some sense of normalcy into my life and into the lives of others this year. 2020 was a disaster on many levels, but that doesn’t mean 2021 will instantly bring joy, health, and perfection because of the calendar change. We all have a lot of work left to do. This means working things out for our own health as well as things to work on in order to bring about change for others – all for the better.

Homeostasis does not exist when living with MS. This disease and the symptoms involved is always changing, so if you don’t already recognize this, then get ready to roll with it. We may not know how or when we’ll be forced into adjusting to another new normal, but as long as we’re aware of its eventual arrival that’s all we can do. I realize this is easier said than done and our emotions can come into play.

I was diagnosed with MS 21 years ago. For quite some time, things (symptoms) seemed to play out in a somewhat normal way in my life with MS, until they didn’t. And, until they didn’t again and again and again. I figured out eventually that something new and foreign will come along and I had to get used to it and do my best to figure it out. This meant talking to my doctors, experts, and fellow MS friends before I realized my “new normal” would be an ongoing process. 

Sometimes new symptoms come and go. Some are lasting, and yet sometimes things (symptoms and life changes) can lead to a permanent situation that can incur a “new normal.” 

When this happens, I’ve learned not to panic. Instead, I take things as they come. Honestly, what other choice do I have but to take things in stride. I must recognize such issues and learn to adapt as best as possible. It’s important to take the time needed to process what’s going on when unfamiliar changes pop into the picture. Over time, I’ll continue to learn new ways of doing things. Eventually, hopefully I’ll figure things out. My theme song when this happens is a rendition from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “High ho, high ho, it’s off to MS school I go!” Again!

We all must remember things change. Also, we also must remember not to think everything is related to MS. Some issues are, some are not. It breaks my heart when I go online and see people who relay every symptom, every change, every issue, and every feeling and liken it to “oh, it’s just MS.” I never chastise them, but I try soothe them into thinking otherwise. Think about that. It’s not always MS, so talk to your doctors and to the experts to be sure you and yours will be able to find what’s really going on. To find your new normal again and again and again.

My new normal is to focus on my own health. This includes taking care of my needs, addressing my physical and mental health, house clutter, projects, and staying in touch with those who need me and those of whom I need as well. We all need each other.

Happy New Year! Let’s look at 2021 as a year to find ourselves and to find and accept our new normal – again.