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“You can’t do this Mark… it’s not going to work!”

Posted on: July 01 2020

A light-hearted look into technology from a self-confessed technophobe

mark resized.pngI’m Mark, a member of the MS-UK Counselling team. We have recently offered clients with multiple sclerosis (MS) a way of face-to-face talking via Zoom conference calls. Up until this recent development we have worked with clients on the telephone only, so this is a big step forward for both clients and counsellors.

Now for someone the wrong side of 60 and with very little technological know-how, this is quite a challenge. If research is to be believed, the average 10-year-old has more technical expertise than the average 60-year-old… this sums me up to a tee!

I have worked with Zoom before. We have team meetings via Zoom. I get emailed a link which I activate on the correct

day and time and lo and behold there I am, like witchcraft on the computer screen, with my other team members.

Working with clients, however, is different. The meeting is initiated by MS-UK. The client receives the link and I am responsible for starting and hosting the meeting. This slight difference plays directly into my technology-based anxiety and I can hear my inner voice saying “You can’t do this Mark… it’s not going to work!”

MS-UK’s Head of Services, Diana, set up a test meeting this week in preparation for my first Zoom client. This proved problematic in itself. For some reason, Zoom did not recognise the microphone or video facility on my PC.

I contacted the MS-UK IT support team. They looked into my Zoom account and could not identify anything wrong, “it should be working fine,” they said. By now my inner voice was screaming “I told you… we’re all doomed.” Then Diana suggested I download Zoom on my telephone to see if it works… and it did! Diana and I did a couple of test meetings over the telephone and all was well.

I’ve had my first Zoom client and I couldn’t have wished for a better experience. It was good to work with clients face to face again and to watch their body language. I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way but my inner voice is silent… for now! Even my grandson thinks I’m ‘cool’ working with Zoom… so bring it on!

I’ve realised that my anxiety, like everyone’s anxiety, is fuelled by a perception of lack of control, assumptions of what other people are thinking and a fear of what the future has in store… counsellors are human too.

To find out about MS-UK’s counselling service, including video counselling over Zoom, visit www.ms-uk.org/counselling

Making the connection

Posted on: May 29 2020

Clive small.jpgFor World MS Day, Clive Whyte explains how connecting with our counselling service helped him transform his mental health

A diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very big thing to take on board, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

At first, I thought I could handle it and just stride through life with no worries – it’s just a condition! However, the mind has a way of catching up with you and stopping you in your tracks. After being diagnosed, I started having issues with anxiety that was affecting my day-to-day life.

I read about MS-UK’s Counselling service and decided to refer myself.

When I had my first session, I spoke to a completely neutral counsellor about everything and anything that had been troubling me daily and causing my anxiety. There was absolutely no judgement, just a listening ear.

After the sessions, I felt like I had lifted a lot of troubling thoughts out of my head. I’d felt like I had a lot of tangled, knotted thoughts in my brain, and counselling helped unravel them. It helped me to think more clearly.

Relationships

My partner is my rock, and she has seen me go through some quite dark moments. However, she tells me she has definitely seen an improvement in me recently. I still have good and bad days, but I feel a lot more in control of my thoughts in general.

My confidence has grown more and more since my counselling sessions, and I feel a lot more comfortable in social situations at work and with friends. Before, I would avoid a lot of these situations due to anxiety.

With time, and the help of counselling, I began to accept my condition and come to terms with a lot of the other things you need to process after an event like this, and that’s exactly what I will continue to do.

Counselling was a way for me to release feeling trapped within, and allowed me to feel more relaxed in myself and with who I am. It’s been a gift for me, and one for which I’m very grateful.

Sign up to MS-UK Counselling

“Acknowledging our vulnerabilities is an important part of taking stock”

Posted on: April 20 2020

thinking.jpgFor MS Awareness Week, MS-UK counsellor Leila Hancox discusses learning to accept the limitations and possibilities of MS

On receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), we may be tempted to try and carry on life as normal if our symptoms allow us to do so. To try and forget that we are living with a life-limiting condition and imagine that it has no bearing on our lives that need worry us. 

Maybe work has always made us feel good about ourselves and we’ve spent years investing our time, energy and resources in becoming experts in our fields, so to take our eye off the ball in this regard would be unthinkable.

Or we dedicate our lives to various sporting pursuits such as mountain biking or running and nothing will stop us from pushing ourselves even further towards our next target, whether hill or dale, trail or treadmill. Or we pride ourselves on being the friend or family member upon whom everyone else relies, the one who gives support wherever it is needed but asks for nothing in return, because we are the strong ones who shoulder whatever gets thrown at us. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s who we are.   

Wake-up call

Then one day we receive a wake-up call. A relapse or a new symptom that turns our whole world upside down as we knew it before. Fear and confusion take over that we may never again be able to do the things that made our lives worthwhile. For then who will we be and how will we cope? 

If we are feeling overwhelmed then we may do well at this point to prioritise our safety and security rather than immediately try to come up with solutions. Listening to our bodies is obviously a vital part of this process. What may also help with our physical symptoms and with our general sense of wellbeing is if we are able to pay attention to what is going on for us in terms of our thoughts and feelings, rather than getting caught up in every-day distractions. This can be difficult if we are not used to reflecting in such a way or we believe that we should be able to cope by ourselves, or that it is a weak or indulgent way of doing things. Yet if we fail to use our full range of resources then we stunt our ability to understand the implications of our new situation for our lives going forwards, and to adapt in ways that are helpful, both for us and those people closest to us.

Although we can help ourselves take stock by reading books, listening to music or whatever it is that helps us tune into our personal resources, we may benefit further by reaching out to other people or organisations, whether that be for information, practical or emotional support. 

Ask for help

It can help to tell someone, for example a counsellor, who listens carefully and understands when we tell them what it is like to live with a particularly difficult symptom. Perhaps we struggle to communicate with those closest to us in our lives because we don’t want to burden them. We may give up trying to explain to colleagues why we need help with a particular task because they just don’t get it. The act of opening up to another person in this way can help us to feel less alone and isolated and therefore better equipped to find a way forward. It can also help us deal with uncertainty, especially if we can remember our strengths and together come up with ways of coping when things get difficult. 

Being vulnerable

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities is an important part of taking stock. Perhaps there were things about the way we lived our lives in the past that didn’t work particularly well and don’t stand up to scrutiny now. Being viewed as the strong or capable one, for example, may have prevented people from getting to know who we really are whether that be friends, relations or a romantic partner.

A wake-up call

MS may be the wake-up call that we need for re-evaluating our lives and reconsidering what is truly important to us in order to find long-term fulfilment and hope for the future. That’s not to say that things will be easy and there won’t be obstacles along the way, whether that is to do with MS or more generally whatever life throws at us. But if we spend some time reflecting on what we truly need to help us cope with the challenges ahead, and what we think truly matters, then we are in a good position not only to survive but also to thrive in ways that previously we might never have thought possible.

MS-UK has launched a crowdfunding project to raise money for video counselling to improve the mental health of people living with MS. If this blog has helped you, make a donation to our crowdfunding page, so we can help to improve the mental health of even more people living with MS.

Click here to donate

Update - MS-UK is here for you

Posted on: March 23 2020

Dear all,

I wanted to let you know that MS-UK staff are now working remotely to ensure that we can keep as many of our Amy pic 2_0.pngservices available to support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) as possible.

Due to a high volume of calls, responses from our helpline service may be delayed. However, if there is no one available to take your call please leave information about your query, email address and telephone number and a Helpline Information Officer will get back to you as soon as possible. Please note that it is likely that we will be able to respond to emails faster than telephone messages and that you may receive responses outside of office hours. To contact the MS-UK Helpline email info@ms-uk.org  or call 0800 783 0518.

The MS-UK Counselling service will continue to run as normal and is unaffected. To register for MS-UK Counselling visit www.ms-uk.org/counselling.

If you have a query regarding New Pathways magazine please email newpathways@ms-uk.org.

If you attend Josephs Court, we will be ensuring you hear from us regularly and have created some exercise videos to support your activity at home. You can find them on our YouTube channel.

For all other enquiries please email info@ms-uk.org or call 01206 226500. Please keep checking our Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates and our blog for useful information.

We appreciate your support and wish you all well during this challenging time.

Best wishes,

Amy sig_0.jpg

Amy Woolf, CEO of MS-UK

Uncertainty and MS

Posted on: December 16 2019

Uncertainty post.pngMS-UK Counsellor Rachel Murray reflects on the uncertainty of living with multiple sclerosis

We travel through life with varying degrees of and awareness of uncertainty. We like it when we feel certain - it feels safe - and we don’t like the anxiety and fear that uncertainty can bring – for many of us it feels scary and unsafe.

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) and living with MS increases the uncertainty experience! Symptoms can be unpredictable and may or may not be connected to MS. Never knowing when a relapse may come along can be daunting, uncertainty about treatment options and their uncertain long and short term effects, uncertainty about MS in workplaces, MS in family life, and MS in the future.  All of these are thought about through the lens of uncertainty and may frighten and worry us.

Living with uncertainty as a constant companion can be exhausting and frightening but what if the lens is changed so that uncertainty is viewed as an adventure, as a path we did not expect to be on but as we are… then let’s see what’s around the next corner and make the most of the journey anyway. What if uncertainty becomes openness with curiosity and a willingness to see what unfolds. What if we start to welcome and embrace uncertainty because it opens up a different experience and viewpoint? 

What if you meet the challenge of processing and experiencing the journey with MS by choosing the lens of adventure and curiosity over the lens of uncertainty? You may find yourself being surprised along the way.

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” — Gilda Radner

To find out more about MS-UK Counselling or sign up, visit www.ms-uk.org/counselling.

 

Christmas opening hours

Posted on: December 13 2019

Christmas opening times graphic Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you know our opening hours for the festive period as we get closer to the mince pies! 

Tuesday 24 December - Open 9am to 1pm

Wednesday 25 December to Wednesday 01 January - Closed

Thursday 02 January - Open from 9am

If you attend our wellness centre in Essex, Josephs Court, we will also be opening for a couple of days so you can continue your exercises throughout the festive period. Josephs Court will be open from 9am to 1pm on Friday 27 December and Monday 30 December. 

During the holidays, you can always contact our helpline team and we will respond in the New Year when we return.

If you would like to speak to someone before then, the Samaritans are open 24/7 and you can contact them in a variety of ways. You can visit the Samaritans website or call them on 116 123. 

Wishing you a merry time if you are celebrating Christmas and a very happy New Year from all the teams here at MS-UK!

Best wishes,

Diana

Head of Services

7 mental health myths busted

Posted on: October 10 2019

Today is World Mental Health Day and our MS-UK Counselling team are looking at common mental health myths head on…

Myths and beliefs about mental health issues can be instilled in us from an early age. These myths and beliefs are not designed to harm – they are passed to us in good faith mainly from parental figures, care givers and the environment in which we develop. These myths are designed to protect us from emotional issues rather than support us. The result is that we learn how to suppress our emotions rather than express them. Here are some common myths we often come across as counsellors with MS-UK…

Myth 1 - Mental health problems are rare

Mental health problems are widespread. According to Time to Change, around one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year and they can affect people from every walk of life.

Myth 2 - I can’t do anything to support someone with a mental health problem

The simple response here is, yes you can!

  • Check in

Ask how somebody is doing. It’s highly unlikely that you will make things worse. In fact, it may be that your relative, friend or colleague needs to talk to somebody and you ask them how they are doing helps them to open up about how they are feeling

  • Listen and try not to judge them

People want to feel heard. You offering a listening ear can often help more than you realise. Try not to judge what the person is saying, even though what you are hearing may be shocking. They are being brave talking to you

  • Treat them in the same way

Sometimes the person may feel worried or feel embarrassed about what they may have shared with you and wonder how you are going to act around them going forward. Try and treat them in the same way as you did before they opened up to you

  • Ask twice

It is OK to ask if somebody wants to talk more than once. It may be that the first time you asked them they didn’t feel able or ready to talk but they feel able to talk now

Myth 3 - People experiencing mental health problems aren’t able to work

People living with mental health problems can hold down a successful job. If one in four people experience a mental health problem each year these statistics suggest that in fact we probably all work with someone who is experiencing a mental health problem.

Myth 4 - People with mental health problems can’t recover

People can and do recover from mental health conditions and recovery means being able to live, work, learn and participate in the community. There is lots of different support and help available to help people recover.

Mental health problems may not go away forever but lots of people with mental health problems still work, have families and friends, engage in hobbies and interests and lead full lives.

These websites offer support:

www.rethink.org

www.mind.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

Myth 5 - People living with mental health conditions are usually violent and unpredictable

Most people living with mental health conditions are not violent. In fact, somebody with mental illness is actually more likely to be a victim of violence than to inflict it. According to Time to Change, the movement working to end mental health discrimination, the majority of violent crimes are committed by people who do not have mental health problems. It also states people with mental health problems pose more of a danger to themselves than to others, with 90% of people dying through suicide having experienced mental distress.

Myth 6 - Young people just go through ups and down as part of puberty – it doesn’t mean anything

One in eight young people experience a mental health problem, according to the NHS’s Mental Health of Children and Young People 2017 report. This statistic is widely thought to just be the tip of the iceberg. You may find it helpful to look at the charity, Young Minds. Visit www.youngminds.org.uk/.

Myth 7 - People with mental health problems are lazy and should try harder to snap out of it

This is not true. There are many reasons why someone may have a mental health problem and being lazy or weak is not one of them. People cannot just snap out of a mental health problem and many people may need help to get better. This help may include counselling, medication, self help and support from friends and family.

Mental health and multiple sclerosis

Depressive disorders occur at high rates among patients with MS and this can have a major, negative impact on quality of life for people living with multiple sclerosis, according to a study. However, counselling can be helpful in finding ways to talk about thoughts and feelings associated with MS.

Find out more about MS-UK Counselling today.

Guest blog: ‘Counselling made me feel cared for’

Posted on: October 10 2019

Julie.jpgIt is World Mental Health Day and in this guest blog, Julie tells us why she took years to come to terms with her diagnosis of MS and how MS-UK Counselling has helped her…

‘To this day I struggle to think about the day I was given the news of my diagnosis. Unfortunately, it was dealt with dreadfully. I was on my own and not prepared at all. The consultant showed me my MRI scan and quite bluntly said the only thing she could think was that it was MS. I could barely breathe but knew I had to try to listen so as not to miss any information. She asked me what I was doing later that afternoon and I replied that I was due to go on holiday with my husband and daughter. She said: ‘Have a good time and try not to think about it too much.’ I couldn't believe what I was hearing, the sheer insensitivity. It took me years to accept my diagnosis and to learn to accept it.’

My diagnosis

‘I first noticed something was wrong around 2009 whilst on a charity walk. After around 40 minutes my right foot felt wobbly and slapped the ground. I didn't take much notice and for the next few years, nothing changed much until one day when I was meeting a friend in town. I parked a way out and by the time I got to the centre my right leg really ached and I couldn't control my foot. I made an appointment with my GP who couldn't find anything much but referred me for physiotherapy. Physio had no effect and when I described the symptoms of weakness, a tickling sensation and pins and needles I was referred for an MRI of my spine. This came back as normal but the consultant decided I should have further imaging of my head and neck and it was this scan that showed the lesions.’

Counselling

‘One day, my MS nurse pointed out that every year I bring up the bad experience I had when I was diagnosed, and maybe I should consider some counselling

‘I had no reservations about accepting help and found it a relief to talk to my counsellor. My first session was comforting and I felt listened to and cared for. I felt I mattered. 

‘The service has helped immensely. I have discovered I am actually stronger than I thought and have learned coping mechanisms for the times that are tricky. 

‘I would say to anybody struggling emotionally not to wait as I did and to seek help. It is available, and any good GP will help, or you can self-refer. The good thing about the MS-UK Counselling service is that the people have knowledge of the disease which makes a huge difference. 

‘I have also found exercise and meditation hugely beneficial in helping with anxiety.’

About MS-UK Counselling 

MS-UK Counselling is confidential and open to anyone living with multiple sclerosis. MS-UK counsellors are registered or accredited with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) with knowledge of MS and its impact on mental wellbeing. MS-UK is a BACP organisational member and our number is 275169.

Register online today or call us on 01206 226500 to find out more.

Guest blog: ‘Someone who is independent, who doesn’t know me but just wants to support and help …’

Posted on: October 10 2019

Adam.jpgAs part of our series of blogs today for World Mental Health day, Adam tells us about his first counselling session with MS-UK and how he felt supported to open up to someone who was completely removed from his experiences of living with multiple sclerosis…

‘I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in March 2018 after one episode of symptoms. After I was told the news I was initially in a state of shock and just remember my wife bursting onto tears. I didn’t want to see or speak to anybody and I just couldn’t believe what was happening.

‘I have four children and all I could think of was them. I had a million questions in my head. How would I look after them? Would they end up looking after me?

‘The biggest feelings were ones of guilt and helplessness. I felt like the diagnosis meant my life was pretty much over and I would be a burden to those I am closest to. The feelings of helplessness were due to the lack of information and the unpredictability of the disease. Everything is a ‘maybe’ as each person is different so it’s a difficult diagnosis to understand and explain to others.

‘I found the information booklets produced by MS-UK and the MS Trust a great way of not only explaining the condition to friends and family but also for me to understand the condition and that the things I was feeling were normal.

Counselling

‘I saw a tweet from MS-UK which mentioned the counselling service and I thought to myself that it couldn’t hurt to try. The idea of counselling did have an appeal.

‘I feel lucky as I have a great support network but it’s hard sometimes when you do want to talk about MS but don’t want the guilt of burdening someone close to you. I did have reservations, mainly because it was a new experience and that unnatural feeling that comes from sharing things with a stranger. Fear of being judged came into it as well, although I quickly realised this was not something to worry about.

‘The first session left me feeling so positive. It was just so nice to have someone really listening. Someone who is independent, who doesn’t know me but just wants to support and help.

‘When we went through the initial checklist of things I may be struggling with, I did have a realisation that some of them were affecting me more than I thought. You do wonder how talking through things will actually help and this is perhaps the biggest reservation, but after just one session I absolutely understood how I could benefit from the service.

‘Counselling has helped me really think about my needs and gave me the opportunity to be reflective in my thoughts about how I interact with people, what I enjoy doing and how to feel positive about the future.

‘This service also helped me feel empowered to talk through some of the anxieties I was feeling living with MS. It really did feel like a journey and I do think about decisions and choices in a different and more positive manner.

‘I have definitely got better at recognising the things I’m proud of now, no matter how small. Using the MS-UK counselling service has made me realise that sometimes the simplest achievements can be proud moments to celebrate.’

About MS-UK Counselling 

MS-UK Counselling is confidential and open to anyone living with multiple sclerosis. MS-UK counsellors are registered or accredited with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) with knowledge of MS and its impact on mental wellbeing. MS-UK is a BACP organisational member and our number is 275169.

Register online today or call us on 01206 226500 to find out more.

Self-esteem and MS - Part 3

Posted on: August 01 2019

Louise Willis (Headshot).jpgIn the final part of our self-esteem trilogy, MS-UK Counsellor Louise Willis offers some more empowering tips for good mental health...

Try mindfulness

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword and that is for good reason. With practice, mindfulness can change the way our brains work and instill a sense of calm. Far from its roots in traditional Buddhist practice, mindfulness of today is about taking your focus out from the past which we can’t change and the future which is yet to happen and putting it firmly in the present. This can be done in a number of ways from focusing on the body to the external senses.

Forgive others and ourselves

Holding on to grudges and past hurts has been likened to ‘putting your hand into a fire but expecting it to burn the other person’. It might feel like the right thing to do, but what does it really accomplish? Forgiveness is surprisingly seldom about the other person but about the feelings and beliefs that we carry with us from the precipitating event. Forgiveness is a private decision and it is not necessary to tell the other person that we have forgiven them. Of course, forgiveness of the self is just as important, as feelings of shame can be overwhelming, we are human after all and everyone makes mistakes.

Use positive affirmations

It’s easy to fall into a rut of negative talk, but by changing the wording it can have a transformative effect on how we feel about ourselves. Remember that coach from school or any other supportive and encouraging role model you have had the joy of spending time with? Be your own cheerleader – ‘you can do it, you are worthy and you are loveable’.

Set small goals and complete them

By setting ourselves small achievable goals throughout the week we can begin to see that we can do the things we set our minds to. Whether it is finishing that book, learning to crochet, phoning an old friend or putting time aside for self-care, it shows ourselves and others that we care for and value ourselves.

Keep a gratefulness journal

Log three things you are grateful for every other day, they don’t have to be big things. A smile from the lady in the newsagents, a bird on the windowsill or simply an hour of your favourite TV show. By feeling and acknowledging the small moments in our life that we often take for granted, we can start to build a more accurate model of what our life is really like rather than focusing on the negative parts.

Want to find out more about MS-UK Counselling?

Register your interest

Missed the last two blogs? Read them today...

Read self-esteem and MS part 1

Read self-esteem and MS part 2

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