My Journey with MS

My diagnoses and path to spiritual peace

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  • Matt Dowie

It is Calm. What now?

I pulled up this blog site to start writing another blog and noticed that the last one that I posted was May. I have tried to avoid thinking about how long it has been since I have written a blog but there it was. Staring back at me. When I first started my journey with MS I decided that my social media accounts would be places where I would give some more every day MS information and my blog would be a place where I had more thoughtful things to write about. This was a place where I was only going to write when I had something to write about. As you can see by my lack of writing, I haven't felt like I have had much to write about. If you were to look at the any news site you would realize that the world is kind of a hectic place right now but luckily my life isn't quite so hectic. Since I started working remote full time on March 12 my family has never been healthier and I am incredibly thankful for that! Despite the relative calm I have had this thought in the back of my head. How long will it be this calm?

What do you do when life is calm and stable when in the back of your mind you know it isn't always going to be that way? For instance, I haven't had a relapse since I started treatment roughly two and half years ago. My journey with MS has been calm and boring, which is an incredibly good thing. I am doing the best I can to stay healthy and fit and to think that I can stay healthy and fit for the next 80 years doesn't seem that outrageous. But to think that I will be relapse free for the next 80 years isn't a reality. I struggle at times with thoughts about the future. When is the next relapse going to come? Am I ready to handle that mentally? Physically? Spiritually? Do I have good habits now that will help me recover quicker?

I can't be the only one that things about things like this. It may not be about a relapse from MS but it could be a different kind of relapse. Maybe it is other health issues. Maybe there are questions about how you pay the bills if another economic shutdown happens. It could be a lot of different things for different people. Are we prepared for that? If so, share what you do to be prepared. If not, what are you supposed to do?

The first thing for me is all about thought. Early on in my journey with MS after diagnosis I would constantly be wondering when the next attack was going to come. Thinking about the possibility of waking up to no feeling in a limb or bad eye sight. Remember, from 2014 until my diagnosis in 2018 I had at least 2 relapses or attacks a year. I didn't quite no it at the time but after diagnosis it was very clear how many times I had relapses. I didn't go very long without one so it took me a while to fully trust that this medication could create a period of several years without a relapse. The constant thought of me wondering when the next relapse was going to come wasn't a healthy way to live my life so I trusted the doctors and the medication they provided. I stopped thinking about that possibility all together and I think the pendulum swung too far. I want from thinking about it regularly to not thinking about a relapse at all. I got complacent a little bit and that led to unhealthy eating, lots of pop, and not as much exercise. You have to find that balance between being consumed by the thought and not becoming complacent. It isn't an easy thing to do but is really important.

How do you make sure you don't become complacent? Great question. One thing that I did that has been really helpful is I wrote a note to my future self. I wrote a note to Matt Dowie who is going through his next relapse. I don't know when that relapse will happen or what the relapse conditions will be but a relapse isn't anything new. I have been through a relapse and more importantly I have come out on the other side. I went through that dark tunnel and reach the light at the end of the tunnel. There will be another tunnel for me and there will probably be another tunnel for you. The important thing about going through the tunnel is remembering that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you have gotten there before, and you can get there again. My note was straight talk. It mentioned how the situation I am going through, future me remember, isn't easy. The valley can be low but we can't forget all the life lessons we learned and the things we did to get out of that valley in the past. This note allows me to remember that getting to the light at the end of the tunnel is possible. I have done it before! This note also gave me a chance to, in a healthy way, remember what it was like to go through that tunnel. I allowed myself to go back to those hard times. The times when I went to the gym to try and run and not making it around a 200 meter track once. The feeling of being told I have MS. The triumph of being able to balance on one foot for 10 seconds. Then 30 seconds. Then 60 seconds. The triumph of getting back to a place where I could run a mile in under 8 minutes. Allowing yourself to think about that as you write a note to yourself really helps keep you grounded and focused in a time where it is easy to sit back and rest in the relative calm.

The last and most important thing that you can do during a period of calm, is you have to be conditioning your heart and mind to know the scriptures. You have to take this time to deepen your faith and your understanding of the word. There isn't anything more important than that. Something I have heard over and over from pastors who have gone through incredibly tough times is this thought. You have to have the answers to God and who He is figured out before something bad happens. During those times of trial or going through the valley you have to already be prepared and conditioned to help you get through it. You aren't going to be able to understand the sovereignty of God in the midst of loss, sickness, brokenness. Knowing God and the scriptures don't make tough times any easier. The Bible isn't going to tell you how to grieve the loss of a loved one. It didn't tell me how to deal with the fact that I was pretty darn blind in one of my eyes or that I couldn't balance on one foot for longer than a couple seconds. But as Kevin Korver will tell you, having those answers and knowing those answers doesn't make the pain less deep, it makes it less wide. There isn't questioning because you know the answers so your pain is focused and less wide. When you hit that tunnel you should instantly be reminded of scripture. For much of my tunnel during the diagnosis it was John 16:33. "For I tell you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have over come the world." Or maybe if you stay awake at night worrying about where the next meal will come from or how you will pay your bills, you can be reminded from Luke 12:25-26 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"

For a long story short these are the things that I encourage you to do in a time where things seem to be relatively calm in your life. First, find that good mental balance between being consumed by future what ifs and completely ignoring those future what ifs. Second, make good habits: eating, exercise, quiet time for yourself, getting into the word. Third, write yourself future self that is going through a tough time a note. Fourth, get into the Word and condition your mind and heart to know scripture and know the answers about God and who He is.

And lastly, Take Heart!

John 16:33

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