“How presumptuous”, you must be thinking, “to group all of your readers into one lump sum, overgeneralizing between us and you.”
Well, unless you are a member of my exclusive club, the one-in-750-in-the-US-living-with-Multiple Sclerosis, then I think you'll agree. As I'm sitting here awaiting the chemotherapy treatment to infuse into my veins, I'm painfully aware that I live with a chronic disease, a potentially debilitating one at that. But for now, I'm fortunately unaffected by this progressive neurological condition.
Perhaps, like you, I'm on borrowed time. Borrowed time? Yes, because neither of us can predict just when the impact our conditions will hit us the worst. Or when the damage from our situation will lead to a fatal consequence.
A depressing shift in perspective from me? Not really. In fact, my intent is to show you just how fortunate you are. And to demonstrate that change is, in fact, in your hands.
I live with a healthy dose of denial. (Ok, so we really may not be all too different from each other.) That said, my denial allows me not to dwell on the ‘what ifs’. What if my condition progresses? What if a symptom hits me suddenly, like temporary blindness or double vision, my presenting symptom? And what if I become unable to work? Or walk? Or cycle and hike? Or leaves me unable to be present and functional?
In spite of my denial, which I find quite beneficial, I am not denying my need for treatment. The stats are quite unimpressive—treatments don't cure MS, just like meds don't cure an eating disorder. But they might prevent my situation from progressing. Or they might not. MS is an unpredictable disease. And boy do I dislike uncertainty. But doing nothing ensures that nothing good can happen.
Hmm, maybe I ought to change the title of this post to read "What you and I have in common"?
But here's where we differ. Besides the fact that you might be living with an eating disorder—bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder—or you might feel ruled by your rules (compelling you to deny yourself enough food or the pleasure of food)—the differences between us are vast.
Here's the biggest: You can do something to reverse your eating disorder or your disordered eating. You can use the tools of CBT or DBT or FBT to move you along. You can potentially utilize your resources—your friends, your family, a higher level of care, if needed. No, it won't be easy and it's not a quick fix. But these are strategies that can turn your condition around.
You can decide it's time to move on, to prevent your rules from ruling you, and eat enough to nourish your brain to soften those unhealthy voices. You can remove the triggers which result in purging and learn to move on after a slip from less than perfect eating and disordered behavior.
There's evidence that people recover, fully recover, from bulimia, binge eating disorder and anorexia, and that normal eating is a real possibility. Yes, you can take an active role in reversing your condition and prevent your eating disorder or disordered eating from robbing you of the life you so deserve.
I have no such option. Sure, I can choose to focus on the positives from living with such a condition as MS, but let's be real. Living constantly aware that any part of my brain or nerve pathway can be damaged and stop working is hardly something to see the positives in.
In fairness, living with MS has had its benefits. It has made me much more sensitive to the fact that many individuals who look just fine—and act fine, even—may be harboring a condition that zaps them of their energy and steals their ability to life a full life. Living with MS reminds me that I can never look at someone and assume that they are just fine, when they may be living with a disability like MS or an eating disorder or disordered thoughts. Or depression. Or OCD…
Like those of you living with an eating disorder, we share a genetic predisposition to have the diseases we have—and we are not to blame! And our conditions might have been triggered by something in the environment. Stressing about it may only worsen our fate—high stress and anxiety—while not the cause of either of our conditions—may be obstacles to recovery and wellbeing.
Based on statistics, I'd have mentally checked out of treatment, believing that chronic disability was my fate. But it's not. Not for me and not for you.
You can live with some denial to get you through the days, but you still need to take your medicine—your food, your nourishment. And we need to put one food in front of the other and follow the recommendations of those in the know—our treatment team members—for without that commitment we fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy that recovery can't happen. A positive outlook, and the belief that we can beat the statistics is essential to moving forward and making the most of what we’ve been dealt.
Personally, I cannot simply eat or take a medication to cure my MS. But you can certainly do just that. You can help your brain function fully, by eating enough, all the while improving your quality of life.
You can shift your thinking and ultimately your actions, and make change happen. I am at the mercy of MS research to be successful and find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Neither of us is at fault for our conditions. But you are at fault if you take a back-seat approach to management of your eating disorder. Passively showing up for appointments fails to support recovery and well-being. Yet acting to change your course makes all the difference.
So as you move through the day, ask yourself if you are changing what's in your hands to change to move toward recovery. And if you answer no, then it's time to make a plan for moving forward. Not on Monday, nor on January first, but today.
I'm feeling disconnected and groggy right now. The Benadryl pretreatment has hit with a bang. I know no hunger, for now, and my thinking is compromised. My heart rate is slower than usual, and I have little control over much of anything—thank goodness for spellcheck. I'd be at risk if I dared to check out of here and attempt to drive my car or to exercise. I am compromised. Right now, you and I are truly quite similar. But my state is transitive. Yours can go either way, depending upon your actions.
Do not have pity for me, for I am fortunate enough to function 100% and I am living my life to the fullest. Have compassion for yourself, and may this post inspire you to get your butt in gear and turn your situation around.