I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006. Although my life has taken many twists and turns since then, I’ve kept my chin up with my own brand of spectacularly relentless optimism.
Recently though, after taking our first family vacation in two years, I was feeling a bit down. Prior to this trip I hadn’t been well enough get on an airplane and travel much, so my husband and the boys had been vacationing without me, which I fully supported. I don’t think it makes sense for others to be deprived due to my limitations.
However, when we returned from our trip, I wasn’t feeling awesome. Some of my symptoms had increased and I felt somewhat anxious about that. I felt grumpy that instead of working out to feel good, I was digging myself out of a hole. It doesn’t really make much sense on a rational level, and yet, a lot was stirred up within me. I think travel does that to many people whether we’re dealing with chronic health issues or we’re in perfect physical shape.
In any event, to clear my head, I went down to our basement to have some quiet time. I wanted to move and stretch and do gentle yoga. As my mind cleared and my anxiety died down, I was filled with new feelings that were not familiar to me.
In my typical world outlook, everything has a reason. Even the smallest events have meaning, and my life is filled with purpose. But, for a few minutes, I let that view unravel and allowed my mind to wander. As my thoughts moved around, I wondered, what if I have this illness for no reason at all? What if I’m sick and it simply sucks? What if there are no lessons to learn? What if this isn’t supposed to make me a better person? How can I make any sense at all of the damage this disease has done to me, and by extension to my family?
For a few short minutes I let myself feel the weight of having been diagnosed with this serious neurological condition that we refer to as multiple sclerosis. I let myself truly understand the reality of it. From that I finally permitted myself to utter a silent complaint, and I fully came to terms with the fact that I don’t enjoy dealing with the limitations, complications, and baggage that hitchhike along with MS. The worst thought of the bunch swimming through my head? What if I don’t get well? Ever?!
In those few minutes, with all of those questions splashing around the ocean of my mind, it was the perfect time to stop thinking and let the tears sprout from my eyes and splatter across my face.
Then something happened. In letting go of my iron-willed optimism I was able to grieve a bit, and it felt good to be sad. It felt congruent. I had let go of some stubborn determination which was covering up anger and more than a touch of perfectionism. I had admitted to myself, that I don’t like this. In fact, I don’t like any part of it!
I’m totally ready to let go of this disease if that can happen. I work towards that end every single day in everything I do, from carving out enough time for sleep, to eating well, and getting just the right amount of exercise, along with prayer and affirmation. At the same time, I’m also ready to deal with whatever comes my way.
I’m relieved that I’m no longer forcing myself to pretend that I’m ok with the burden of this disease, because there’s nothing ok about living with a disability like MS. It’s awful for me, in ways that I will not go into here. It’s equally rough for my husband and children. They are tasked with the incongruity of watching a loved one suffer from a major illness, while carrying on with the normality of their everyday lives.