I am thrilled to share this conversation with Tamara Kaye Sellman, a brilliant and courageous journalist, who is widely published and writes about health and illness – especially her own experience with MS. Tamara uses her amazing storytelling superpowers to write about chronic illness and sleep disorders and pens a column that shares observations about life with MS for MultipleSclerosis.net.
A fierce advocate and educator, Tamara is also a mother of two 20-something daughters, a wife of 34 years, and a resident in a beautiful Puget Sound ferry town. Simply put: she is a loving, smart, compassionate, AMAZING woman. I’m so excited to share her story with you!
In this episode we’ll chat about lots of different things, such as:
- Cute woodland creatures in Puget Sound
- Tamara’s story of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
- Attending school as a mother
- Living, learning and writing with chronic illness
- A little bit of MS 101, helping us learn about autoimmune disorders
- Knowing your purpose
- Believing in yourself
- Validating all feelings – even the icky ones
- Reclaiming and reshaping identity after a diagnosis
- Having agency over your body while still living with the knowledge that you have a chronic illness
- Accepting the detours of life
Read on for a couple of quote highlights and our shout-outs from the episode!
“Here I am, I’m writing to help people! It’s kind of a miracle. It was a really crooked path to get here, but it’s mine and it’s working. And I’m just going to make it work for as long as I can.”
“There’s this level of compassion I inherited from my mother. I see it in my own children now, which is so amazing. When I help other people, I just feel better about myself.”
“Even if you’re perfectly healthy and you have all the right marks in the milestones you want to make in your life, there’s always going to be something in the way. There’s a certain level of self belief you have to have – you know, you can do it!”
“I love the idea of feeling the feelings. They’re all valid. Even if they’re negative and uncomfortable, and you know, icky, they’re all part of the process.”
“I’m not sure we actually fight diseases. We treat diseases. What we fight is our own experiences and our own relationship to the disease, I think. For me, it’s just ‘own it.’ This is me, this is what I got.”
“There’s something that happens when you’re diagnosed with something that you don’t expect. It’s this thing that I call ‘diagnosis mind,’ and it’s like this airless brain space in which you kind of lose your connection to hope and perspective, because everything becomes attached to this diagnosis. It’s like a parasite, almost.”
“Reclaiming my identity in the face of MS has to do with getting past that diagnosis. I’m saying, ‘wait a minute, I’m the same person today that I was before I was diagnosed. So let’s get back to that agenda. And then we’ll just make some accommodations.’”
“I’ve done some meditation… and one of the images I have is when you’re sitting there, trying to get calm enough to meditate, you have all these passing thoughts to come in. I kind of envisioned them as a bird or an airplane that is in my field of vision, and then it just flies away. And I kind of think about that when I think about expressing my story or sharing my story. It’s putting it on a jet airline and sending it off the screen. And it’s out in the world. But it’s not here with me now. Now I have a nice, peaceful sky.”
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