The Blog

Riding the Waves of Multiple Sclerosis

MS hasn't stopped Emma and she holds mindfulness responsible, she has followed her heart and felt encouraged to succeed in her dreams.

Emma Wardropper is an employee relations advisor of 15 years; she is also a recently trained mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist in human givens. Emma has found that mindfulness has changed her relationship with multiple sclerosis. She recently attended our teacher training course and without a doubt is going to be a fabulous teacher. MS is a subject very close to my heart.

In 2002 Emma found herself in a new position at work and was experiencing a huge amount of fatigue. This became worse and worse and was accompanied by nausea and following on from that a bad fall. After a period of blood tests and visits to the GP and finding no conclusion to all the illness Emma found herself in hospital. She became so unwell that she couldn't lift herself out of the bath, completely paralysed, her entire body lacked strength. Emma was finally diagnosed with relapsing - remitting MS. She spent three months recovering in hospital, receiving physiotherapy and rehabilitation support. She made a full recovery to independence. Typically Emma then went on to experience a relapse every year to two years; symptoms include intense fatigue, body numbness, feeling an intense tightness around the chest area, loss of eye co-ordination and blurry vision.

Three years ago Emma was introduced to mindfulness via a psychologist at work who was trained in it. This stirred Emma's interest and so she decided to attend an 8 week mindfulness course. Emma was also aware that the local MS society was encouraging individuals to develop skills in mindful living and practice. Following the course Emma developed a clear practice of mindfulness meditation, making time every day for practice. The time that she would practice meditation for ranged from 10-40 minutes a day. Emma explained to me that she became aware of the benefits instantly and following her incorporation of mindfulness meditation, she didn't experience a relapse for nearly two years, the longest period she had gone without symptoms.

I asked Emma to explain to me exactly how mindfulness had changed her life and her relationship to MS. Firstly, the body-awareness meditation had played an important role in niggles that Emma would have previously ignored. By bringing gentle attention to her entire body in meditation, Emma was able to get in touch with body sensations and decide whether they needed rest, attention from the Dr or advice from her MS nurse. Having this insight changed things; Emma was able to take heed from warning signals early, before they became problematic. Alongside early identification, Emma found that slowly but surely she was spending less and less time worrying about where the MS would take her or how her life used to be, and she was spending more time in the present. She felt able to allow her fears to show themselves and then to let them go, she wasn't clinging to worry nearly as much. Emma felt strongly that the compassion exercises and meditations were a huge reason for the level of acceptance she had started to experience. She told me how she wouldn't choose to be any other way now. "Mindfulness has made me aware of my body, I accept my MS as part of me, and mindfulness has changed my life and enabled me to live with a chronic condition". Emma made it very clear that practicing mindfulness has provoked patience and an understanding in terms of letting her body heal after a relapse. She experiences less concern about when she will feel better after a relapse and a lot more trust that her body will heal. Emma talked about other people with MS seeing it as the enemy and having to fight it. In Emma's view that builds tension and struggle. Being gentle with the MS, and learning to listen to her body has been invaluable.

Mindfulness has had the most profound effect on Emma's relationship with MS, she talks about it being a prescriptive something, it's always available and to hand. MS hasn't stopped Emma and she holds mindfulness responsible, she has followed her heart and felt encouraged to succeed in her dreams. Emma's job is sometimes stressful and she deals with difficult situations a lot. She feels able to embrace life in a different way and is able to constantly move forward. Emma now teaches mindfulness and has developed a wonderful culture of mindfulness in her workplace. She is certainly an inspiration to me.