I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 13 years old. When I started the testing for everything (MRI, spinal tap, bloodwork, etc), I thought nothing of it. But then I was diagnosed with MS. Those two letters are pretty powerful. Mood swings are a symptom, and I always laugh when I’m taking a poll or something and somebody asks if mood swings got worse with my MS diagnosis. HELLO! I WAS IN PUBERTY! Hehe. But it did hit me pretty hard. I have posts about my diagnosis on this blog, so I’ll just skip to how it has changed my life.
1. It has forced me to rely on God and to trust him way more than I would have otherwise.
My faith has grown SO MUCH. I have very little control over this MS. I can do things to try and keep my body happy, like stretch or exercise, but I don’t have control over spasticity in my leg muscle or when my fingers will get tired or numb. Those things just happen. I have had to rely on the Lord to give me physical strength and energy when I have none. When I just want to crawl back into bed and skip the day, the Lord gives me exactly what I need. I’ve compared my MS with a thorn in my flesh before, but I don’t think of it that way anymore. Yes, it’s there, but it doesn’t always have to have an impact on every single thing that I do. Yes, I do take it into consideration when I’m asked to go for a walk and I reply, “Ehhhhhhh, I shouldn’t,” because I know what the next hours might feel like.
God is my physical, emotional, and spiritual strength when I have none. The MS has shown me I don’t always have physical strength. But, like the parables that Jesus was so good at telling, I have been able to relate it to my emotional and spiritual strength, as well. God is pretty sneaky like that.
2. It has allowed me to see what negativity can become, and weighed in my decision to be happy and positive all the time.
The MS community is split, sadly to say. About half of them cry, “Woe is me!” and have allowed the MS and depression to take over their lives. They are sick with a disease that is ruining their life. Nobody understands. Life sucks, let me drown in the sea of despair. The other half allows positivity to reverberate off of them, no matter what. These are the people that others who have never even heard of MS, look at and they say, “Now there is someone who I’d like to hang out with. Even though she’s in a wheelchair (or uses a cane or walks funny on her own or all these other things that MS can cause), she is a happy person. What an inspiration.”
I have been in the negativity boat. It is heavy, and doesn’t flow easily. It struggles to do everything, and there are many tears that cause the boat to start sinking in the water around it as it takes on water. But I have decided that while sometimes, pity-parties are what a person feels like they need, I don’t want to weigh the world down. I want to lift it up! (Pity parties DO affect others, whether we think they do or not!)
3. It has forced me to come out of my shell.
Kudos to my mother, who made me start talking to doctors and neurologists about what’s going on right away. Although I told her everything, I needed to learn to speak up for myself. I also needed to learn to defend myself, stand up for myself, and not let other people’s opinions be mine. I definitely did that. Now I’m the odd person who walks up to a stranger and says, “Hi. I don’t know you.” I will tell complete strangers about my MS and when they try to pity me, I will shrug and come up with a sassy comeback (that never gets out of my mouth, but in my head, it shuts them down). People can think what they want to think. But the people that know me realize that there is NOTHING to pity. I tell ya, some people!
4. It allowed me to see other people’s hearts first.
Most people, when they first meet me or see me walking on the street, see my limp. At least the people who look on the outside first. I had a bible study leader who once told me he’d never noticed my limp before. Because he looked at my heart. I like people’s hearts more than I like physical appearances. That’s what I see first. And you really ask me how I landed such a great guy? Hint: he saw my heart first, too. We actually fell for each others’ hearts before the rest of us. But, mmhmm. His heart is one sexy organ. And it’s MINE! 🙂
5. It has made me totally empathetic with illnesses and people who are not in the “norm.”
The people who society looks down upon and judges? I see them. I know what it’s like to be judged, and part of that feeling makes me feel a connection with that person, even if they don’t realize it’s there. I have no idea if it’s related or not, but I have a soft spot when working with kids, as well. So not all of them are at the same levels. I teach beginners and advanced students that range all ages. And it’s not always the older ones who are so advanced. Someone has a learning or other physical disability? We’ll work around it. Someone’s self-esteem is shaken? We’ll fix it. Too young? Too old? No such thing. I’m a friend to all, and I will teach anybody. MS? ALS? Autism? Cancer? Who cares. Let’s teach them something!
And I’m sorry for the people who are used to getting special treatment because of some condition. Who are seen by everyone as one way. Because I will see beyond. I believe this is what makes me a good teacher. And giving one-on-one lessons is my FAVORITE.
6. For some reason, my love of writing has been growing!
I don’t know if this is related to the MS or not, but I have been writing a lot more than otherwise. Nobody likes to listen to complaining, so I started writing about it in a journal. I wrote stories about it and overcame some of my own struggles through my characters. And now I write about all sorts of things. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I can write from a seated position, because I get so tired on my feet all the time. I’ve always embraced the idea that, “I CAN do this now, so I WILL do this until I can’t.” That is why I happily finished my music ed degree and looked forward to being a teacher. Not because I’d be able to do it forever, because I don’t know the future. But because I liked it and I can do it NOW. Which leads me to
7. It has allowed me to value the NOW like never before.
Right now, I can type and write and walk and climb stairs and drive and work. I don’t know what my body will do tomorrow, or in 5 years. Maybe I won’t be able to do half those things. Maybe I’ll be able to do more than I can now. I have no control, and no idea. But right now, I can. That’s all that matters. Right now, I could WALK down the aisle to marry my love. Right now, I can support him as he’s in med school, because right now, that is where we’re at. Years from now, I don’t know where we’ll be living or what I’ll be doing. So right now, we are plugged in to a church. Right now, we are making a lot of close friends. Right now, we are involved in other people’s lives because right now, we may be at the same stages or at the same church or simply in the same neighborhood. Right NOW.
8. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve become an MS Activist.
When I was in middle school and high school, I was in the MS Walk and raised all kind of money for MS research. Since then I have become too busy for the walk (and I don’t have the same connections I did), but I educate as many people as I can about the disease. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness and millions of dollars for ALS research. What challenge does anybody have cooked up for MS? Because I am excited to jump on board!
These are a few of the things that came to my head as I was thinking about the MS I have. Dr. Wile E. Coyote is actually learning about the central nervous system and nerves and all sorts of things that he’s been able to connect to MS, and he understands it better in that medical way. With all his resources, he has also been able to see what is up with MS research and what researchers are looking into. Apparently, they are looking deep into genetics, because there is something related to that. But that’s not ALL. It is so interesting listening to Dr. Coyote talk about the stuff he’s learning. Of course, when he starts talking, using all scientific terms, I know he’s no longer talking to me and can tune him out. (He’s only been in school a few months and I’ve learned that!)
Do you or have MS? How has it changed your life? Do you know someone with MS? How has it changed YOUR life, watching them? Do you see changes in their life?
Anna E. Meyer