Although there is no guidebook or map to help Michelle navigate the course of her disease, there is hope. Michelle often says that the volunteer work she does for the MS Society is in her own best interest, that she is motivated by her own need for researchers to find a cure. And yet, when Michelle isn’t working for MS, she is volunteering for one of the many other organizations—such as the Transportation Action Now Committee and the Disabled Women’s Network—that benefit from her altruism. She supplements her monthly disability pension with some freelance writing, but she gives most of her time to her community.
Her commitments would exhaust anyone, and yet somehow Michelle finds the energy. “It is so important for me to live outside of the MS because I don’t want it to consume my life. It has consumed enough of it as it is.”
Just about anyone can relate to the threat of being eaten up by something dangerous—an illness, an obstacle, even a worry or a regret. But it takes a powerhouse like Michelle to know how to fight back. She models a two-part strategy: first, pound a fist on the desk and say, “I’m not going to give it everything.” Then sell something you don’t need and go skydiving.
5 expert tips
It might be an illness or a condition. Or perhaps it’s an obstacle, a personal limitation, or even a plain old worry. In any case, it’s easy to become so caught up in your problems that you forget about life beyond them. That’s where Dr. Catherine Gildiner, clinical psychologist, author of Too Close to the Falls and Chatelaine expert columnist, can help. The following are her tips for tackling your issue, step by step:
1. Face your problem head-on. “Denial is the biggest stumbling block in terms of most problems,” Dr. Gildiner says. She also points out that it is a big waste of resources. “When you are in denial, you use up energy you could have saved for learning and healing.”
2. Join a support group. There is solace in sharing, says Dr. Gildiner. “You will benefit from a strong sense of empathy when you are among others who know exactly what you are facing.” Besides, support groups help you to educate yourself, and more knowledge makes you less helpless.
3. Let others help you. Resist the temptation to worry about dragging friends and family down and, instead, take them up on their offers to help. “You have to be a little bit selfish,” Dr. Gildiner says. She points out that if people really don’t want to help, they won’t offer.
4. Challenge yourself. Part of fighting your problem involves taking on challenges. “It doesn’t have to be going to the Olympics,” says Dr. Gildiner. “But a challenge is something where you say, ‘I’m a little bit frightened but I’m going to take that small step anyway.'”
5. Never say, “I can’t do it,” urges Dr. Gildiner. Reframe whatever it is into something you can do. If mountain climbing on foot is not a possibility, what other ways can you find to get up that mountain?