But I can’t do that anymore…

Life changed a lot after multiple sclerosis came to live with me. Many emotions surfaced that I didn’t even know existed. Fears, doubts, worries…MS forced them all out into the open. It was a time in my life when chaos and confusion became the norm and I didn’t like it at all.

I guess some people would think that that’s a terrible thing for MS to do to me. I was sinking fast and feeling as though, at any minute, I wound drown. How could I let go of all the confusion swirling around me when I couldn’t even get dressed by myself? How was I to live my life when everything around me was in turmoil? How was I supposed to keep going?

I decided to take out two pieces of paper and make two different lists. At the top of one page I wrote “Things I can no longer do” and began writing down everything I could think of. It was an easy list to make and grew quick…really quick. I filled up one side entirely and was doing my best to hold back the tears as I saw my dreams and perceived future written down in front of me, lost and gone forever.

I then switched my focus to the other piece of paper. At the top I wrote “Things I can do.” At first I just sat and stared at the blankness of it all. I had a hard time even coming up with one thing to fill the space. I decided to shut out everything around me and simply write down the first thing that popped into my head. That first thing just so happened to be “I can laugh.” That was the first thing I wrote down on my can-do list.

Before long, the list grew and eventually it outnumbered the can-no-longer-do list. I discovered during my list making that not only can I laugh, but I can nap more than once in a day, pimp out my wheelchair giving it a coolness factor, watch reruns of “I Love Lucy” at midnight, and have an excuse for getting out of helping someone move. I realize I could also make up amazing new words, fall up the steps of my stairs, and still remember the theme song to the Animaniacs.

My limitations suddenly became smaller and smaller. I found I could do so much more than I gave myself credit for. I thought of many regular things too, like make a sandwich, change the sheets on my bed, cut my toenails, and vacuum the floor. Granted I may be slower doing them and compete them in very unconventional and creative ways, but I can do them and that’s what matters.

I had been so focused on the things I couldn’t do that I was missing all the things I was still capable of doing. That day my life changed. I started to look at life differently. I started to look at MS differently. It’s almost as if I went to the eye doctor and got a new pair of glasses. I was seeing everything brighter and with more clarity.

Which list are you focusing on? Are you more apt to put all your focus on the things you can’t do or on things you can do? Try it. Get out some paper and make two lists. Embrace the life that you have right now. Focus on what you CAN do…so focused that your can-do list far outweighs any other list you could possibly make. I think you will be amazed at just how many things you are capable of doing.

28 replies
  1. Paula Twigge
    Paula Twigge says:

    The problem with this is if you are not a suffer you do not understand it. If I’d been diagnosed at 20 it would have been a tradgedyy. I’m 54 I just have to get on with it! I was diagnosed at 46……but told initially people over 40 don’t get this! I’m happy I’m just alive

    • Maureen Russell
      Maureen Russell says:

      I was diagnosed at 18 in 2001, and while it was scary at points, at least I was young and stubborn enough to keep focused on the future. I’m 35 now and have been lucky to have access to resources that keeps me exercising and working full time. Gratitude is so important at any stage and any age. Best of luck to you!

  2. Melinda Tom Repphun
    Melinda Tom Repphun says:

    We call MS the thief in our house. Despite the revisiting thief, we make a choice to stay calm, positive and find our laughter in “thief circumstances” as often as we possibly can. Always stopping to think & rethink. Trying not to just react. Never getting into the victim mindset with unpacking our suitcase there.

  3. Crystal Love
    Crystal Love says:

    It changes your life, steals from the people you love by stealing you but one thing I still am flabbergasted by us how others look at me now. I’m no longer a person to some…. Im just nothing…..lazy , needy, weak. If they knew how hard I fight to do what u do, they would fall at my feet for forgiveness. But thankfully I have a beautiful son, precious church family, and a few sweet friends left.

  4. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    All well said soo true! I have a done those lists and was surprised at the Can Do list. With this recent issue and what Dr thinks is my going into SPMS (Secondary-progressive) things are a changin’ again. .. thinking I should revisit them now.

  5. Meeya
    Meeya says:

    Here we go again:… and when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change 😊
    Although I had a really difficult day today, I’m still here – unlike the friend who got her diagnose 3 days before me… and who died of pancreatic cancer 4 months later 😢
    Things to remember on days like these!!😗

  6. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks Penelope having a used -to-do list can be overwhelming and making a can-d list seems far away. But at the end of the day making your life easier and more comfortable is a major move for us. This is a horrible mess and we could go down with it, but we need encouragement to keep going through the day, just like before and it’s not much different just different levels. Things like an overnight cathea helped me get a decent sleep and that was as good as getting my arm fixed after putting it through a window. Now this wouldn’t be thought of when we were ‘healthy’ but are just as important as going to work, etc. Like you write we have to change focus to where we are not where we were. This have changed and you have a new job that will change day by day, and that can be fun or sad but it is still you.

  7. Leah
    Leah says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t share the same view as you do on this issue. I have difficulty getting in and out of bed, getting in/out of my shower, getting dressed, walking up or down stairs. I can no longer pass the vacuum nor make my bed. Sadly, I recognize these simple tasks I used to be able to do seem to take an eternity to do or even accomplish. The things that gave me joy like: ski, play golf, bike, go out shopping, or simply take a walk are a thing of the past. Sure, I can nap, read, chat on the phone with family and the few true friends I have kept since my MS diagnosis, but these things certainly do not outweigh what I used to do. My quality of life is no longer what it used to be; however, having said this, I’m very grateful to have a terrific husband who is loving, understanding, and extremely helpful…but at the end of the day I have lost my independence…and this is the reality I face and need to accept daily.:(

    • Carla L Broadbent Rogers
      Carla L Broadbent Rogers says:

      Leah, MS can and has taken things from your life. You are still you. Not the you that you were, but a you that is worth being. I know easy to say and but hard to do. You Can and Be Well.

  8. Clive Whiteside
    Clive Whiteside says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with us all as always you are able to express in words so much about life with MS. This post is something that so many people will be able to relate to and to take comfort from in seeing they are not alone I what they experience take Care


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