How She Does It: Meagan Freeman And The 5 Ways She Copes With Her MS

I have always been a driven person, and my MS diagnosis has only made this determination stronger. After my diagnosis, I considered dropping out of my graduate school nursing program and quitting entirely. I became immediately certain that I could not allow this to be the “end of the story.” But I didn't quit and I completed my Masters in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner degrees in 2012, three years after my diagnosis.

Many people ask, “How did you do it? How did you stay motivated?” The key is to keep a positive, grateful outlook, and to always reach out for help rather than struggling alone. MS can have profound physical effects, but the emotional impact of the disease is the most difficult for me.

Learned Helplessness

Meagan and Wayne looking outward, together.

Sometimes, with relapsing-remitting MS, we have periods of relative normalcy. Sometimes we even start to believe that we are 100% healthy again during a long period of remission. But then, we are attacked when we least expect it. Human beings need an element of predictability in life. Without the ability to predict aspects of our lives, we go a little nuts, don't we? We even tend to become powerless, which is known as learned helplessness.

The idea is that if we learn that we cannot control our lives, we develop an attitude of helplessness. We give up even trying to live or control any aspect of our lives. This is the source of the anxiety and depression that so often accompanies this disease. Fighting that constant, daily knowledge of our utter lack of control over our own bodies is a difficult predicament.

The challenge is to practice a daily mantra of "It could always be worse." But that is also the solution.

I try to challenge myself to look outward when I am overly focused inward on my own troubles. Looking outward, even reading the newspaper or watching network news for five minutes is often enough to snap me out of my dark place. The suffering in this world is extreme, and is my suffering any worse than anyone else? No.

Wars, starvation, disease, poverty, oppression. The list goes on and on. If I practice gratitude I can always pull myself up and out of the pity party I've thrown myself. People need me! I have six children depending on me and mother's don't and can't take sick days.

The Mantra