Odd Enough Jamie-Lynn Sigler opens up about what it's like to be a mom with MS

Jamie-Lynn Sigler revealed to People that she had been battling the disease for 15 years.

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Jamie-Lynn Sigler made headlines last year when she shared for the first time the news that she had multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Not only that—she revealed to People that she had been battling the disease for 15 years. "It's still hard to accept," she told People of the condition, which often prevents her from walking from long distances and makes everyday tasks like climbing stairs difficult.

And as Jamie told WomensHealthMag.com recently as part of her work with Serta's Declare Peace campaign, she's learning to accept the disease and make space for it—and its demands—in her life. "MS or not, in general we’re such an 'on' culture, always trying to do do do, and we forget to take care of ourselves," she says. "Whether it’s taking 15 minutes for yourself or making sure to get a good night’s sleep, we don’t focus on that, and I think it’s important."

Read on for Jamie's insight on how the disease has changed her life, how it affects her parenting, and Instagram fomo.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler: I’m at this place where I’m really trying to shift my focus away from all the things that MS takes away from me, and trying focus on what it gives me, and the lessons it could teach me. When you’re dealing with a chronic illness that’s really not going anywhere for the time being, you can play the victim and you can feel bad for yourself—and rightfully so! I’ve done that and have my days still where I do that. But I’m trying really hard to live my best live with it and figure out how I can still fit into the entertainment industry and acting and motherhood and how I can do the best I can.

WH: That’s an interesting perspective, especially on shifting your focus away from what MS takes away from you. What would you then say it gives you?

JS: First and foremost, it’s forced me to focus on myself and my health. I was never really conscious of what I was putting in my body, how I was treating my body. I was always just living for the day. I think [MS] really shifted my focus to a healthier lifestyle.

It’s definitely slowed me down, but in the slowing me down it’s given me a lot of perspective, a lot of appreciation, and I think it’s taught me how strong I really am. The word strong has a whole different meaning to me now. It’s not about physically being strong. It’s about persevering.

It’s also taught me the power of surrender and just letting go. My whole life, my personality was a bit of a perfectionist, and always wanting to control things, because I felt like it would make me feel better. It’s not lost on me the irony of me having a disease that sort of takes all of that away. I can’t control parts of my body and I’m definitely not able to be “perfect” in my idea of what perfect was. With it I’ve had many lessons in letting go and just being okay and confident with who I am despite imperfection.

WH: You’ve said that MS has impacted so many areas of your life. Can you share how exactly it’s impacted your day-to-day with your son Beau?

JS: There are things that I have to sit out. But there are still ways that I figure out how to be there. I’d like to say that if my son could understand the question and articulate an answer for, “Do you feel like your mom is always there?” he would say, “Yes, Mommy is there for everything.”

Just this past year I hired a full-time babysitter because it’s just making my life easier. Even if I’m there, just having the extra hands is really important. He plays hockey, he plays ice hockey, and sometimes I’m just not the one who’s carrying his hockey bag and putting on all of his equipment, but I’m in the stands watching him. It’s hard sometimes to hash things out, but I want him to have as full a life as possible.

WH: What is some advice you’d want to give other parents who are coping with chronic illness and disease?

JS: Give yourself a break. Doing the best you can is great and it’s enough. We can feel like we’re being super hard on ourselves because we’re not able to do this or not able to do that. Just know that your child loves you, no matter what. I used to fear that my son wouldn’t think that I was a good enough mom because I wasn’t the mom that could run with him at soccer, that I was the mom just sitting and watching him. I feel bad. But I know that I’m doing the best I can, and I’m still giving him a safe and loving environment.

WH: Yeah, and I feel like a lot of moms also grapple with a sense of guilt and sort of feeling like they’re comparing themselves to other parents.

JS: Everyone feels that way! ... On Instagram you see these perfect moments, as a parent or not. I have a lot of friends that say Instagram can make you kinda depressed when you scroll through. So I said [to my friend that] I’m going to start doing a hashtag of the real moments before and after. I posted a picture of myself at a beach not too long ago and fellow people that have MS were like, “Good for you! You can handle it!” and stuff like that. And I said to my friend, “What I really should have written is, ‘But you didn’t see me struggle for 10 minutes holding onto my husband to get to that beach chair; [you didn't see me] shed a few tears because it was super-hard." I ordered a margarita, I read a little of my book, finally felt relaxed...and THEN I took that picture. It’s not always as perfect as it seems, and I don’t want to put that image out there any longer. If I’m going to be an advocate for people who are suffering in silence, I want to be a truthful one.

WH: Considering the unique needs of your condition, how do you make time for your health when you also have such a busy schedule?

JS: I give myself [time], whether it’s a day in between each thing or a couple of hours, and whether it’s booking a massage or getting acupuncture or clearing my schedule. Tomorrow we land in L.A. and I had a bunch of appointments and I was like, “You know what? Tomorrow I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off." And I’m gonna play with my son a little bit and the babysitter’s going to come, and then I’m going to lay in my bed and look at my script.

I have to be selfish sometimes. But it’s for the better. I’m a better mom for it, and a better wife for it, and a better actor for it. I can’t be nonstop. I’d like to be but it’s okay, I’m making it work and figuring out how I can still do it all.

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