4665402492_42b4979a25_zMy therapist has a mantra. It is: The story you tell yourself creates the reality you experience. We talk a lot about personal narrative, how we tell ourselves stories about things. And name things.

I said that this damn diet I’m on feels like I am on a hamster wheel, going nowhere, making no progress. He challenged me to change the name I’m giving the diet. Instead of calling it a hamster wheel, call it something else. Something more positive, something that tells me I am going somewhere.

Do you want the hamster wheel? he asked me.


Well what do you want?

I want someone to tell me that the damn diet is working. That’s what I said in my head. But I didn’t say anything out loud. Instead I started crying. What’s going on? He said. Why the tears? I don’t know right now. I said. Which was true. I didn’t know right away.

What can I call the diet that isn’t a hamster wheel? I thought of calling it climbing a mountain. But even that doesn’t seem to quite do it, because even mountain climbers can measure their progress. They choose a mountain to summit, and they know the elevation. They know how many miles it is. They can estimate how long it will take to get to the top and as they go they know the distance they have covered, how much distance remains. I know how much distance I have covered in terms of time, how long I have been on the diet. But I don’t know how much distance remains. And even mountain climbers, when they reach a certain point, can see the top of the mountain. They may not see it when they start, but after a certain point they can see the top. And it gets closer as they continue.

I don’t see the top of my mountain. I may never see the top of it. How can I continue without seeing the top? Without knowing the distance that remains? I mean, I can. I can keep going for as long as I want to. It is up to me. It is my choice. It is the story that I tell myself about whether I can continue or not. About what I need to continue. I have told myself that I need to see the top of the mountain. Do I need to see the top of the mountain to continue?

No, I don’t need to. But it sure would help. It sure would give me some of that confirmation that I was looking for. Evidence that my belief is true — proof that the diet is working, and having an affect on the MS.

So I am trying to pay attention to how I name things. How I label things. If I call the diet a hamster wheel then I will experience a hamster wheel. It will feel like I am running in circles, getting nowhere, making no progress. Regardless of whether I am or not.

If I call it mountain climbing, will I experience it as climbing a mountain? Well, mountain climbing is definitely a strenuous activity. It’s an ordeal, like the damn diet. It takes a huge commitment, determination, a certain mindset. All things that the damn diet require. It’s an activity that takes a long time to see results. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to go climb a mountain. You have to train and train for months. And depending on the conditions of any particular mountain you may have to train for extreme weather. You have to get in shape. You have to assemble gear. And even when it is the day that you embark, it is not a one-day excursion. Because once you get to the top, you don’t just turn right back around. Wikipedia says that the fastest record for climbing Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen is around 20 hours and 24 minutes. That’s barely less than one day — one helluva day — and you would’t be able to make it back down on the same day.

So mountain climbing? Not sure if that’s the best label yet…

Maybe exploration? Like the early explorers? Discovering new lands. Not knowing where they will end up. Believing that something is there, but not knowing what it is and forging ahead to find out.

It also requires commitment, determination and a certain mindset. It also requires preparation and training. Well, I don’t know if the early explorers really trained, per se, but they had to have some training for navigating seas, operating ships, hunting for food once they reached a foreign land, and making do with what they had when supplies ran out or got lost or destroyed. But mostly they were shooting in the dark, weren’t they?

The modern day equivalent of an explorer might be a spy. Like Sydney Bristow from Alias, right? How many times was she sent on a mission where she didn’t know what she was getting herself into? She was trained and prepared as much as she could, but she couldn’t possibly know exactly what she would encounter once she got there. She had to explore and discover along the way. For her, every mission is unchartered territory. Can I be Sydney Bristow with my health? It’s kinda of funny and a little cheesy. But it just might work. Sydney kicks ass. I want to kick MS in the ass.

And I’m starting with the hamster wheel. Cue: karate side-kick. Hi-Yah!


Photo by Zebra Pares.

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5 thoughts on “MS and Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

  1. Keep going girl! You have lots of support… I’ll try to be more helpful with my recipe suggestions next time :-P. I really appreciate you talking about naming things appropriately to create a certain perspective. This is something I like to work on, when I remember!! xo

    1. Thank you, friend! I just need to get my butt in gear and try some of those yummy recipes! We should have a baking/cooking day or something. The naming/labeling thing is super powerful, once you’re aware of it. I have started putting notes around different places for myself to help change the way I name things.

  2. Janna! I love reading your articles on your ms experiences. Thank god for google! I am so glad I read that you decided not to take meds. I just got back from the neuro optimologist ( I can’t even spell it?) yesterday and told that I have the lesions but they look small and not consistant with ms but yet I probably have ms? I felt like smacking her in the face! I was like what? As she fiddled with some paperwork. Like do I have it or not? “it’s best to talk to the ms specialist when you see her” and someone similar was just in here with the eye thing and decided to take the meds after they had many many lesions, way more than you. I was like and I care because? and I don’t even get to see the specialist for another month and already know I don’t want the meds either. I have been going to an acupuncturist for anxiety, depression and chronic dizziness for almost 3 years now and it seemed to be going ok , I just started renting my own apartment and the dizzy was getting better etc and BAM this eye thing happens (optic neurtits) which I still can’t figure out how to say or spell it correctly. My eye sight came back with no drugs ( I had already decided no on those IV steroids) before I even went to the neuro place.. I wonder if I should have even went to the this neurology place to begin with? They have done nothing for me but made me feel uncomfortable and scare me and do stupid eye tests that seem rather pointless other than to collect data for themselves.

    The scare tactics are just wonderful. So I will probably wind up just questioning everything when I see the ms lady and probably not want to shoot myself with stuff I don’t know what it is with 30% chance of doing what exactly? ( although I take Chinese herbs that I don’t know what that is either) but seem safer choice to me. I’ll continue my treatment plan with my acupuncture dude and talk to him more about this because something just seems oh so very wrong with this whole maybe ms (shoot myself up with some probably harmful stuff for no reason scenerio)

    Have you considered acupuncture or Chinese medicine? I mean real Chinese medicine.. mine does pulse diagnosis as well and even asked for the MRI reports to check them.. I’ve also been into the mind body connection stuff… the more you dwell and try to find this and that diet .. no matter how well you think you eat if you are always worried and paralyzed mentally when you eat then it’s not good either.. from what I read, makes sense though… the worse you are off because your mind isn’t being well with this. look up Abraham Hicks and read some of their stuff, it’s very interesting. You cannot have a healthy body without a healthy mind. The two are ever so connected.

    I don’t believe in the lyme disease theories either, something seems very wrong about that as well. anyway.. thanks for the great writing. I am so very happy there are others like me out there that want to find alternative ways to be healthy. I certainly wouldn’t feel healthy every time I go to shoot myself up with chemicals that may do this or may do that.. no thanks. be well!

    1. Hi Lauren, thank you for the comment and I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I haven’t considered Chinese medicine, but at this point I am not having any symptoms (!!!) so I plan to maintain my diet and supplements unless something drastic happens. You’re right, though, the mind-body connection is so powerful. That is a big part of what Ann Boroch writes about in her book, Healing Multiple Sclerosis. I mention it in almost every one of my posts, and it has helped me so much. I highly recommend it. I hope you are doing well and please to update me. Thank you for reaching out!

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