MS AND CHRISTMAS

There are the parts of Christmas I love, like time with family, winter walks, twinkling lights and evenings by a cosy fire. But the parts I like don’t always gel well with my MS. As a result, Christmas can turn into something of a marathon for me and excitement tends to quickly give way to dread when I realise there is no way my body will cope with all the festivities.

In some ways Covid is the Grinch that gifted me Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, we miss our families so much and we might as well be living in Australia for all we’ve seen of them in the last 2 years. Yet there was something very special about our intimate Christmas last year. Knowing that we could clock off work on the 23rd and collapse on the couch for a few days was bliss. Usually we’d be packing cases and travelling between Sligo and Dublin. In reality, I have no idea how I was expecting my body to make those trips on top of flying home from Germany last year - it would have been asking for trouble.

Last Christmas was probably my most relaxed festive season ever. We settled down to movies and mountains of books, mingled with brisk walks in the chill winter air. It felt like I was properly getting to press reset and, when January rolled around, I felt renewed and ready for anything.

Gone was the usual rushing and racing and spending December on antibiotics because my immune system couldn’t cope with the influx of viruses doing the rounds. I was given the chance to re-evaluate Christmas. This year will be in a similar vein as it’s still not safe for me to travel (the immune-suppressing medication I’m on for my MS means the vaccine isn’t as effective and I remain in a high-risk category).

We miss our families so much, that goes without saying, but Covid has given me a chance to go inwards, to enjoy my own company and reflect on what it is I need and what makes me happy. I feel like I've been on a very cathartic journey in the last couple of years, the result of which is I’m more in tune with my body, more compassionate towards it and more able to set my own boundaries and fight for what I need. 2021 has been a year of good health for me and I can’t help but go into a new year with a massive smile on my face.

So, as I settle into another very quiet Christmas and as we look out upon another unpredictable year - which, when you live with MS, uncertainty isn’t that much of a change from the ordinary - I am focusing on what I have rather than what I have not.

See, I’ve had a few very rough years with MS, years where I could never imagine living without pain and without my wheelchair. But what started as a 5-min walk in 2019 slowly blossomed into a 5km hike this year. For me, walking still feels like a novelty and I don’t want that to end. Every single time I step out that front door with my dog, I’m in awe of my body. There are days clocking up 8,000 steps is nothing to me and there are days hitting 2,000 is a struggle, but every step is a step worth celebrating and having compassion for my body and where it’s at in any given moment is the greatest gift I can give myself. Because wherever you’re at, whatever sort of year you’ve had, our bodies are worth celebrating - in fact, the tougher the year the more we need to thank them for carrying us through.

Wishing you all a happy Christmas and a new year of good health.

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