I recently caught up with a woman that truly inspires me, Eliz Martin of The Sparkled Life. Her outlook on life is so blindingly shiny and bright. Any little reminder of Eliz in my day leaves me feeling comforted, understood and encouraged. Her website is thesparkledlife.org.
If you were to find me on a Friday night I would probably be …
Spending time with my family, usually catching up on one of our favorite tv shows. My best friends live all over the country (well, world) and I do try to spend as much time as MS allows vacationing with them. Our favorite thing to do is to dine at a delicious restaurant and spend the evening enjoying each other company over a glass of wine.
In the winter I love to spend my time …
Enjoying the holiday spirit. I love decorating the house for Fall and then Christmas. One of my favorite things to do is sit near the Christmas tree and read an enticing book…with fuzzy slippers. Also, enjoying the silence of a snowfall is one of my favorite “little things” in life.
You have an amazing outlook on life, what do you do physically and mentally to be proactive about MS?
I truly believe in the power of positive thinking. Not every day is good but there is good in every day. Every night before falling asleep, I go through the days events to recognize the good. This can lead to some tears as I acknowledge the hardships as well. But realizing that I made it through that day gives me the courage to get through the next.
Just smiling also plays into this; keep a smile on your face and you are bound to get through the day with a more positive outlook.
Physically you have to take care of your body. You have to eat right, you have to exercise, you have to practice yoga and stretching. You have to keep active. You have to nap. You have to learn your body. And then more importantly, you have to listen. This approach allows me to rest up for those few (and sometimes far between) yet beautiful active MS days.
You have such a shiny personality, do you find that being so open and outgoing changes peoples perspective on people with disabilities?
Almost every day that I go out in public I am asked “What happened to you?” as they curiously look at my arm crutch. People are shocked and thrown off by my response of “I have a disabling case of MS” for most people who suffer from MS have invisible disabilities.
Having a visible disability is not easy task. Yet I do believe that I’ve been given the grace to live it with sparkle and be a witness. Yes, I’m disabled. Yes, I’m on 27 and on disability. Yes, I still love life.
I’ve become so much more aware of the hardships that people with disabilities face. And If I can do my little bit to help shed some light on these hardships, then I feel my disabilities are worth it.
What has MS taught you about yourself and life in general?
MS has been the biggest challenge yet the biggest blessing. It has taken away some of the things I loved most about life, has taken away even the simplest of things such as walking. It’s literally stopped me in my tracks and made me come aware of who I am. It made me come to realize those hard corners I had that needed rounded out. Those relationships that needed to be mended. That stopping and smelling the roses isnt just a saying but an actual life enhancing choice.
I am happier now. I am a better person, a better friend. All because I was able to do inward meditation and teaching, which led to outward positivity. This doesnt make me or life perfect; it just allows for the burden of MS to be a little lighter to carry.
I know that having a chronic illness comes with hard days. What do you do on those days to keep the shine on?
Hard days yes. It seems I get about two good days a week, which leaves a lot of room for PJ days as I call them. They arent necessarily bad days, they are just days where I stay in my pjs and spend a lot of time in bed.
Find little things that make you happy and invest in them on your pj days. For me, it’s Starbucks. On a pj day, if the only thing I actually accomplished was to make it through the Starbucks drive-thru, I still have that happy accomplishment. Other happy things for me are painting my nails, writing letters to friends, reading a book, writing on my blog, exploring on Pinterest, cleaning and organizing (go figure…something actually productive!).
Another simple thing that I have found that helps is that I have three separate wardrobe options: public, home, and bed. I make sure to get dressed each day, even if getting dressed is just in some “home wardrobe” options ie yoga pants and a hoodie. This has a mental affect; that even though I am having a “pj day”, I did get dressed. Points for me.
Support systems are critical on hard days. I am fortunate to have a fabulous support system, mixed on family, friends and supporters / fellow sparklers. I connect with them via person-to-person, phone, mail or social media. A little “hi” or a hug reminds me I’m not alone in this fight.
The most important, although one of the hardest, choice I make to keep my sparkle and shine on is to hold on to hope. Hope in a cure. Hope in better medicines. Hope in answers. Hope. Because at the end of the day, it’s really the only choice left.
My words of advice for the newly diagnosed are ..
You are still beautiful you. MS will change a lot of things but it can not take YOU. It may dampen your spirit but that can be worked through. Stay strong.
You are not alone. There are millions that are suffering too and we want to be your friend. If you dont have a strong support system, find one online. Search #multiplesclerosis or #msfamily on instagram and you will find there are 1000s that are living with MS just like you. We’re in this together.
No matter what, never lose your sparkle. (;