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Embracing Winter with MS

Getty Images / Linda Raymond

As someone who has lived with MS for almost eight years, I welcome autumn and the coming winter with open arms.

The ravages of summer are over – the extreme MS heat intolerance, dodging the BBQ invitations, hiding in the shade, and forever lurking in the background as the sun beats down relentlessly. When others rejoice in soaring temperatures, my heart sinks in equal measure.

My work as a building project manager means I work outside a lot and if you give me rain, snow, frost, and cold, and I’m in my element. But give me sunshine and heat and I’ll be bringing out my ice-packs, cold vests and endless bottles of cold water.

Winter joys to revel in

For me, autumn and winter are the seasons that I can enjoy. Some of my reasons are to do with my MS symptoms, and others not so much. Here they are:

  • Now that the nights are drawing in and early mornings are dark and chilly, I’m still wearing a t-shirt to work while my workmates are shivering in their thick fleece sweaters and woolly hats.
  • Everyone you know will suddenly start talking about snuggling up on their sofas to binge-watch Netflix and Amazon (which is what I do all through summer).
  • I find the cold soothing and save a fortune on heating bills. The downside to this is that my friends have to bring scarves when they visit me.
  • It’s widely acceptable to feel tired at 1pm. I hate those pesky short afternoons anyway.
  • I can stop pretending I like avocado salads and start eating hearty stews with lashings of butter-drenched bread. Carbs are back on the menu, officially.
  • I don’t need to shave my legs.
  • I can pack away all my fans. I’m used to them now, but the one in my bedroom that runs all summer makes one hell of a racket.
  • I get to know my cat again. In the summer months, she briefly visits twice a day, snaffles all her food and heads back out. It’s comforting to see her curled up on the sofa opposite mine.
  • You can never have enough candles. They’re beautifully atmospheric and hide the wrinkles.

Set your resolutions in autumn

I find there are more joys during the dark months. I have always thought of autumn as the real New Year – a time to reflect and make choices for the coming year.

January 1st is such an awful date to decide anything. Anything that is, apart from whether to watch The Sound of Music again or whether to google more (apparently endless) turkey recipes. Sweeping up the previous night’s party hats and empty bottles is utterly disheartening, as is the realisation that those New Year’s resolutions will probably never be kept.

January can be such a bleak month (Dry January, anyone?), followed by Fed-Up February and Moaning March. So why not start early and as you mean to go on? I love the whole idea of studying something new or taking up an interest I’ve always thought about, but never got round to doing.

Learning a new craft like macramé suddenly seems enticing and bang on-trend. Cracking the spine of a new journal and jotting down random thoughts and doodles is divine. I’m even tempted to pick my own pumpkin this year, after seeing a field full of adorable toddlers wheeling their little barrows along the bright orange rows.

Even going to the theatre or cinema on a dark autumn evening brings a strange kind of happiness not felt during summer (when maybe I should be at one of those BBQ’s instead). And who can beat the inner glow experienced while wandering around a Christmas Market? The mulled wine, the aroma of bratwurst, the twinkling lights and general bonhomie and excitement. It makes me want to take up knitting just so I can make a pair of colourful mittens to wear.

Take advantage of the slow pace at Christmas

Forget the surfing, roasting on a beach or attempting to paddle-board (with my balance?). At Christmas, everyone is allowed to kick back and loll around on the sofa all day, pausing only briefly to choose another chocolate from the huge tin before slumping back down again. Heaven. Life slows down so much for those two weeks and is much more suited to my usual pace.

Normal life is suspended, which kind of feels a bit like MS. You’re allowed to start a brilliant joke and forget the punchline, to wobble into walls and dose off at odd hours. In fact, it’s expected. There’s no need to worry about what to wear – chuck on a Christmas jumper and you can keep it on all fortnight and no one bats an eyelid.

The only downside? Valentine’s cards will appear in the shops on the 2nd January. But that’s a story for another day…

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