If you’re reading this from anywhere in Canada (especially eastern Canada), I think you’ll agree that we’re due for a warmer season; this winter has been tough! In true Canadian fashion, this time of year brings on a very temperamental Mother Nature; just this week she gave us warmer temperatures mixed with blizzards! As you can imagine, this was confusing for both my body and my wardrobe, but thankfully I’ve mastered the art of ‘all-weather’ dressing.

If you follow me here or on any social media, you have no doubt been introduced to my passion for mental health advocacy and have read about my recent struggles working through my own mental/physical illnesses. I’m proud to say that I’ve put a lot of honest thought and effort into my recovery and maintenance. It’s been almost a whole year since my first MS flare-ups and I can’t believe how far I’ve come. If you had told me a year ago that in April my life would change forever, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here I am, chronically ill but stronger now than I have ever been, in fact; today I’m here to take another step… literally.

Many scholars, doctors and academics have discussed the importance of exercise, how it benefits the body, and of course, how it aides in the treatment of mental illness; it’s often said to be “the most under-prescribed natural remedy we have”. With my newfound anxiety in hand, I decided to start walking; I had to see first-hand all I had read. In an effort to get ahead of my thoughts and centre myself, I started slow, my local Starbucks. As I grew more and more comfortable with my own company, my walks became longer; sometimes I would even forego the coffee, only sometimes though. After a few months I developed quite a routine and now I walk upwards of two hours almost every day (weather depending, of course), first thing in the morning and then about an hour after dinner. I’ve noticed great changes in my attitudes, my ability to concentrate and of course in my body. My confidence, self-worth and energy levels have increased and I have often found myself looking forward to my time alone.

Soon enough, the snow will start to melt, the trees will bud and the sun will stay up a little later; that summery feeling will slowly (but surely) inch its way back into our lives. As a lover of all things flowery, I get excited for the springtime (my allergies don’t) but some thing about this time of year fills me with so much love! I have always felt that the winter months are for hibernating and reflecting, and the summer months for new fresh starts and refreshed habits; this year will be no different. I am living a new life, encouraged and challenged daily but growing in the best ways possible. It’s safe to say that my MS has taken me in a new direction; I might even say it saved my life. It has taught me to slow down, to savour the little things and the importance of living in the moment. So here’s to spring! I hope it moves you as much as it does me!

About

Ashley Martin is a social justice and mental health advocate living with MS. Ashley has found an outlet to help others and by writing about her experiences both here and for the MS Society of Canada. Follower her journey on HMC's Supportive Minds Blog, and follow Ashley on Twitter.

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