Cara smiles to camera

My inner MS Jedi warrior and mental wellbeing

In a galaxy not very far away at all...

In life, there are moments that can change us forever. Times which challenge us, put us onto a path which we never expected to be on, derail the plans we had made, remind us of our mortality, our vulnerability. That moment we realise our destiny isn’t quite the way we expected.

Did anyone else think of Luke Skywalker when they read that first paragraph or is it just me? Yeah, I’m a Star Wars geek. But bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

The mental health challenges MS can bring

I’ve experienced the dark side that multiple sclerosis can bring to my mental wellbeing.

The uncertainty: asking myself where this disease I have will take me, how it will pan out, what it will mean for my life.

The unprecedented challenges, the stress, the worry. Putting on a brave face to just keep going.

I know it often feels too much. The battle seems too big, the dark side too powerful.

But I don’t want to live a life on the dark side. And what I’ve come to realise is we all have a bit of Jedi in all of us. We all have ways to cope. The force is strong with us.

Sometimes you just need to remind yourself it’s always possible to return to the light.

I’ve had mental struggles, anxiety, depression.

When lockdown started, those feelings returned. It almost took me back to the place I was mentally before and just after my MS diagnosis.

When I dally with the dark side here’s what happens to me: over eating for comfort, drinking too much and spending too long on social media, googling like a mad woman.

One day I realised I didn’t feel right – I was anxious, panicky and all at sea. My fatigue was the highest it had been for a long time.

Read about the emotional effects of MS and ways to manage them

What helps keep me mentally strong

So, I went back to my MS Jedi Warrior training. The things I have learned that keep me mentally strong. To bring the force back into balance for me.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t include lightsabre fights, moving stuff with the power of my mind or curing the sick.

But it does include:

  • Exercising when I can – and trying to do something active each day. Jedis need to keep agile but are mindful of what their bodies tell them. Some days I walk slowly listening to music, some days it’s light yoga or weeding my garden.
  • Getting outside – not often possible but even a step outside the backdoor to breathe in the fresh air can help.
  • Meditation – I know it sounds a bit Yoda for some, but even aiming for a few minutes each day using free, guided meditations on You Tube helps me keep my brain at peace.
  • Zoom calls, video chats, phone calls, check in texts – keeping in touch.
  • Staying away from social media – obviously we all have to keep up with the guidance, but I’m not wasting time on social media and keeping it to trusted media sources.

I’m no expert, maybe someday I’ll be a Jedi master, but for now I know this - it works for me and I feel genuinely more at peace and mentally stronger for it.

You can find a path away from the dark side. May the force be with you.

Looking for emotional support? Contact our MS Helpline on freephone 0808 800 8000 or email helpline@mssociety.org.uk. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

This year’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek (18-24 May 2020) is all about kindness. We'll be sharing stories about being kind to yourself and others on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let us know yours!

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