By Michael Russell
The idea of a retreat usually brings up images of relaxation, spiritual reflection and a getting away from the usual day-to-day life with its hustle and bustle stress. We most commonly are used to churches, businesses and large organizations having retreats with the intended purpose and goal of refocusing and a quest for new vision. It all boils down to “we’re stuck in the mud”, “a rut” or a cycle of unproductive thinking”. Although most would agree that retreats are great, adding that everyone should go on at least one in a lifetime, it would most likely wind up at the bottom of the list when it came to recommendations of helpful things for those who have Multiple Sclerosis.
Yet this is exactly what is now being prescribed for those who have been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and even for those who have had MS for a longer period of time. It would surprise some to know that retreats specifically tailored for those living with Multiple Sclerosis as well as other illnesses are increasing around the world because of the benefits being seen in patients across the board including a feeling of well-being, regained control of symptoms, self-esteem, comradeship, emotional support and acknowledgment.
In general, the most effective yet simple retreats offer those with Multiple Sclerosis a unique opportunity to not only learn more about this complicated and mysterious disease they have that baffles the best of doctors, but to connect with others with the same in common. During some of the more involved full-scale retreats, there are usually a combination of group leaders, doctors, social workers, physical and occupational therapists that are there to listen and assist in sorting out and identifying common problems and frustrations of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. No topic is off limits because the goal of these retreats is to help the patient identify and deal with any problem or symptom that is a result or by-product of the disease, whether it’s physical, emotional or mental. These are working retreats in the sense that those with MS will certainly get their money’s worth as they work out some issues.
Many popular retreats include families or have “self-help” as their focus. The National MS Society Chapter in North Carolina (nationalmssociety.org/ncc) hosts a weekend retreat in the summer called the “Camp Carefree Family Retreat Weekend. This is a fun-filled affordable weekend in the country for the whole family. Each summer has a different theme.
The Gawler Foundation (gawler.org) sponsors a residential program for those with Multiple Sclerosis Cancer and other illnesses. Gawler’s main focus is “self -help”. The Gawler Foundation teaches self-help techniques and many non-drug options for patients to get their particular Multiple Sclerosis symptoms under control or guidance towards halting the disease’s progression completely.
Granted not everyone will experience a complete turn around with their MS symptoms, but each individual will without a doubt benefit just from the rare meeting of like hearts and minds. Each will take away from the retreat what he or she needs whether it is information, encouragement or just a warm feeling of well being that they didn’t have before the retreat.
Your Independent guide to Multiple Sclerosis
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