When you can’t do things you used to do because of multiple sclerosis

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 given moment, I would 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 make two different lists on my computer. At the top of one page I wrote “Things I can’t do” and began writing down everything I could think of. Things like work a full-time job, walk to the mailbox and sign my name without dropping the pen. I know some people will say that’s being too negative, but hang with me for a minute.

It was an easy list for me to compile and grew quicker than I thought possible…really quick. I was doing my best to hold back the tears as I saw my limitations and disease progression being documented in front of me.

I then switched my focus to the other page. 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’t 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 as if I’ve never seen them before, and have an excuse for getting out of helping someone move. I realized I could also make up amazing new words, fall up the stairs not just down them, 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 complete 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. Make your own list. 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 find you are capable of doing.

MS Gets on My NervesMS WarriorMS Superhero


11 replies
  1. Anita
    Anita says:

    I also have my ups and downs. I fell recently and have had to learn that healing for us takes more time. I’m thankful for the joys each day. Last night I was so sore I cried. I said “I can’t do this anymore ” but then I calmed down and was thankful for my family and husband and for that which I still can do.
    I sometimes feel that responsibility weighs more than before (I have my in laws and mother staying with us; one has Alzheimers, one is frail and 92 and one has no empathy towards his wife who has AD&VD. ) I am 60. What gets me the most thar I am no longer a reliable source of help for others. Can’t say I’ll play the organ on Sunday. Do the flowers and cakes for weddings. This all depends on the day and my capabilities on the day. Yes, lots to be thankful for but a daily boost of faith and positivity helps keep me strong.

  2. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    I did this at the suggestion of a therapist and it really helped me. I need to do it again to get me out of a slump! Thanks

  3. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    Most of the time I take it in stride when I realize I can no longer do something, because I can usually come up with some way to compensate.

    I realizedrecently I could no longer change light bulbs, and that hit me really hard. I ended my marriage two and a half years ago and fought hard to keep the house, and now that I have, I can’t even do the most basic of home maintenance tasks! I have burnt out bulbs in several areas of my home! The only people I know of to ask are my parents, and they’re elderly, so I’m not sending them up ladders. I’m just going to have to make a handyman list of things I need done, and then hire somebody for a couple of hours to take care of them.

    • Peggy
      Peggy says:

      That’s what I plan if my hubby isn’t around. A friend of mine does this. She lives alone and has MS since her husband passed. That and good freinds she will ask.

  4. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thanks Penelope I just do what I can and don’t do what I can’t. I don’t usually make lists up because it doesn’t always help me.

  5. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    THANK YOU Penelope I always forget to see what I CAN DO 😊 like right now I CAN hold my year old grandson 👶🏻 Give him a bottle and still hold him while he naps and maybe me too 😂 YOU ROCK Penelope

  6. madeline newton
    madeline newton says:

    again you put your finger on what many do think of the CAN’T BECAUSE OF THE MS…so glad you put this up….so good for many do have the negativity of life and i think we should realize ha we are alive ,breathing ….like you said laughing ,watching shows that you missed or just want to watch several times…just enjoyment of doing what you couldn’t when you were always working …hahha…yes i do miss it also but again it isn’t the job but it was all of the great people i worked with and of course so much more money but again if i want to i can call any of them go to their monthly luncheon for they are retired now …so we can make what we want to now …it is great and funny if you look at it…again thank you ….

  7. Jan
    Jan says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Today I really needed your post to remind me what I CAN still do!! Your insight on everything is always spot on and very helpful. I may not have any balance, but I can still laugh. Many blessings. Jan 🤗 🥰


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