Identity of MS
Prior to 2008, my life was filled with work, good friends, family and the activities I loved. A beautiful wife, two kids and I had just earned the designation of All American at the ½ Ironman Triathlon distance. From the outside it looked like I had it all but during all of this good fortune, I always felt that it was not enough.
During this time I had bouts of depression and the stress became worse at work. The mistakes and accomplishments in my career left me feeling like I was not enough as my lack of self worth increased. I was trying to fill a bottomless hole with external accomplishments, ignoring what really mattered, me.
Then in 2008, I paralyzed my right leg taking away what I loved, who I thought I was, and the identity I desperately held onto.
During my journey of healing my leg, the negative thoughts of not being enough, which led me to career, family and health struggles, increased. These negative thoughts plagued me as I avoided the changes to my life. During this time I was pretending and acting like I was going to be OK. I acted confident and strong to everyone else but inside I was scared and lost. The denial of my injury and pretending to be OK led me to depression and thoughts of suicide. I had to make a change but did not know how. Grasping tightly to my old sense of self, and out of sheer determination with a desire to have my old life back, I completed Ironman 3 years after I paralyzed my leg.
This amazing accomplishment did not come close to what I really needed and the act of being OK, continued. This cycle continued with high levels of stress and fear. During this time, I did not ask for help and thought I just needed to deal with it.
My previous identity of not being good enough or deserving left me living in fear and shame. Holding on too tight kept me from exploring other options, and being open to receiving help.
I kept walking through life with my eyes closed.
My journey was not over, In 2017, I was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and told I was less than a year away from a wheelchair. My fear and worry surmounted and I did not like the options my MS neurologist was giving me. I began seeing many experts from around the country that only confirmed this grim prognosis. At this time, I avoided all medication due to the side effects and deep down I knew there had to be a better way.
I began researching alternative methods and studying doctors like Dr. Terry Wahls and the Wahls protocol. I researched why symptoms happened and what was causing them. I read stories and spoke to many people that have healed incurable diseases by using alternative means like meditation and diet. Through this journey of discovery, I began to feel better and if I had a challenging day I knew why.
I realized that the next step was up to me and too ask for help. I later discovered that being diagnosed with MS would be one of the greatest gifts ever presented to me, because I woke up to what was truly important, me.
The gift I soon began to realize happened when I was given the choice to address who I was, what I wanted, and more importantly deal with the mental roadblocks and stress of not feeling like I was enough.
When I began to look inward and begin loving myself for who I am, I discovered and believed that "I am enough" and my old identity was holding me back from taking control of the disease and living the life I wanted.
When I opened my eyes to the beauty and joy of my life, not accomplishments or prestige, I started to see life as the joy it is. I began studying and exploring how to control MS and limit the symptoms and episodes it gave. I became a Certified Health Coach, studying Food as Medicine, understanding what foods helped me thrive and others that made my MS symptoms worse. I also studied and practiced meditation and breath work to calm my nervous system and decrease my stress.
Along this journey, I came across many teachers, guides and resources that have all helped me. I have learned and live daily the power of Food as Medicine, the calm that comes from sitting quietly, exercise that is balanced, love that gives from an open heart, and an awareness of who I am.
There is a difference in what you have accomplished and who you are. Your diagnosis does not have to be who you are, you have an opportunity. You have an opportunity to know yourself on the inside and not just what we present on the outside. We have an opportunity to feel good and not be a victim to what has happened to us.
As a Certified Health Coach, host of the podcast "Identity of Health,” author of Identity of Health, and public speaker, I took my experiences to help recently diagnosed individuals develop the Identity of a survivor and the habits necessary to be one.
I want to encourage and guide you to live your best life with MS no matter what that means for you.
We can live the life we want and what our heart calls us to be.