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How counselling skills and mindfulness helped after my MS diagnosis

Noor Jawad

Remembering the world is a beautiful place may sound like a cliché – but I also think it’s something we don’t do often enough. How often do we really notice what’s around us, the colour of the pavement we’re walking on or the sounds as we cross the road?

I only realised the benefit of noticing all the small happenings in my world after I was diagnosed with MS three years ago.

Struggling with MS relapses and my diagnosis

It was a rough time. I had four relapses lasting for periods of six weeks, all in the space of a year. Low doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Receiving my diagnosis was the cherry on top of a bad year and I lost interest in most things.

I didn’t want to speak to or see anyone. Going out had become quite a frightening experience as I was struggling to process movement, colour and sound at the same time, and I just wanted to be alone. I knew this wasn’t who I was and something had to change.

Counselling skills helped me look at things differently

I had taken a course in counselling skills and was lucky enough to be able to share my diagnosis with a group of people in a safe, non-judgemental space. The work we were doing helped me to become self-aware and view myself with compassion.

It’s not always easy to be kind to yourself when you feel your body is betraying you, but the time spent practising counselling skills helped me to look at things differently and tune into the changes I was experiencing.

One evening, a friend on the course approached me with a book about mindfulness. Initially sceptical, I took it and thought “what have I got to lose?”

Tuning into my body and the world using mindfulness

This was the beginning of something special for me. I was slowing things right down, noticing details I’d never stopped to think about before. Colours seemed more vivid and I was appreciating the beauty of nature. I was actually listening to my body, tuning into it and noticing when I needed to slow down and call out for help. I also became more spontaneous, exploring new places and being more open to experiences.

My mood improved, I felt happier and was establishing a new sense of normality. I stopped to listen to the signals my body was giving me. This was particularly helpful with dealing with fatigue.

I started to understand that rather than being frustrated with my low energy levels and continuing to push myself, that it was OK to look after myself and slow down. It wouldn’t make me any less than who I was pre-diagnosis, I just needed to respond differently for the sake of my own wellbeing.

Redefining what’s ‘normal’

The thing I’ve learnt post-diagnosis is as simple as this: it’s not over. At first, I felt I wasn't ‘normal’. Through taking the time to look at what ‘normal’ means, I’ve realised it is different for each of us, so I now must redefine what that means for me. And that’s OK.

I would say take the time out to appreciate everything, big or small, because that’s what keeps life sweet. Stretch yourself, find something new you want to do and find ways to do it.

Praise yourself and have compassion for your shortcomings. There is so much beauty to live for.

> Feeling low or stressed? Read our information about MS and mental health

About Noor: You can follow Noor’s mindfulness journey on Instagram @trailoflight. She is always ready for the next adventure, eating her way around new places and loves to get in touch with her body through yoga and exercise. Read more from Noor on her blog.