Stubborn: 1. Refusing to comply, agree or give in. 2. Difficult to handle, treat, or overcome. 3. Persistent and dogged.
Dogged: Obstinately determined; wilful or tenacious.
Stubborn is a word that has been thrown at me throughout most of my life with MS, almost always preceded by the word ‘too’. I’m too stubborn when I insist on walking. I’m too stubborn when I refuse to sit down. I’m too stubborn when I resist someone’s offer of help.
However, it’s been a while since I’ve been accused of being stubborn. Something seems to have shifted in the last couple of years. Lockdown could be to blame, with all that extra sitting, or it could be the paralysing relapses I’ve had, which have not only damaged my physical wellbeing but my emotional wellbeing too. It has been far too tempting to sit down, drink wine, and ignore the kettlebells staring at me from the corner of the room while my workout DVDs collect dust. Where has that stubborn determination gone? As I’ve allowed my body to become more and more deconditioned, and seen myself slip slowly into the trap of self-pity, it dawned on me that without this dogged stubbornness, I would have long ago given in to MS. It is precisely this stubbornness that has kept me going for as long as I have, and I must never lose it.
I’ve recently started seeing a proper physiotherapist, one who has spent 40 years living and breathing MS and who has neurological knowledge oozing out of every pore. She is, in short, a miracle worker and the first health professional I have met who is actually impressed by my stubbornness. In fact, she believes that stubbornness is the best trait that someone in my position can have, and this makes me very happy.
After just 3 sessions, I have seen my confidence return and my mindset shift back into gear. Using parallel bars, wobble cushions, an aerobic step and an amazing exercise bike designed for both active and passive cycling, I can feel the difference in my gait, in my posture, and most importantly, in my state of mind. I’ve got my ‘can do’ back, and it feels soooo good.
But while it may be a good thing to stubbornly crack on and push through the pain, I have a tendency to take things too far. There’s that troublesome word again, ‘too’. I’m much too ‘too’, and this sometimes gets me into difficulty. This week, for example, my children’s school are encouraging everyone to walk to school. Obviously, I am going to complete this challenge, especially now that I am all about the ‘can do’! The trouble is, walking is a particularly challenging challenge for me and so this week has seen me revert to my early-MS days of dragging my reluctant legs, even if it kills me. I’ve had texts from worried friends who have seen me struggle along, an offer from my next-door neighbour’s mum to drive me back each day and my own mum chomping at the bit to save me (and her) from the torture. But, as we all know, I am stubborn and stubborn people don’t give in.
It’s been a long and painful week and my emotions are split between euphoria and despair. I’ve got my zing back, but at what cost? I watch as all the other parents waltz by, leaving me to shuffle along at a pace that only a sleepy snail would be proud of. The village is deserted as I make my way home, a lone parent in the aftermath of a busy and chaotic school run. I spent Wednesday in bed. The rest of the week has seen me happy to achieve the smallest of tasks – usually solving Wordle. But on I shall stubbornly push, dogged as ever in my endeavours.