Sure, I can tell you about how frustrating it is to be too fatigued to play with my kids outside or what it’s like to worry that the drink in my right hand might end up on the floor (or on me). I can tell you about my fears about being able to be the mother my kids deserve and what it feels like to forget key information when I’m speaking to someone at work. It’s a lot and it’s constant, but that’s not what I want to focus on. I’ve been diagnosed with MS for six years and since then I’ve had two children, moved out of state and back, gone through a divorce, and started a new job. My world has changed and so have I. There are so many things I’ve read about the dark sides of MS and I certainly don’t want to downplay those aspects in the least, but I do want to also draw attention to something I hadn’t expected upon diagnosis – I woke up.
It was gradual and still very much evolving, but I’ve found that I see life differently. It was a fast-forward on an internal assessment of what is important to me and how I want to experience my time. I want to figure out who I am, embrace that person, and celebrate her fully. As I begin to do so, I’ve noticed that I’m more easily at peace with things I can’t control and I’m not living in a false narrative of others’ expectations of me. I no longer worry as much about what people will think. I’ve removed myself from social media, I started getting those tattoos I always wanted, I wear clothes that make me happy, I try new things, I live in the present as much as possible (and do chores less frequently in the process), and, most importantly, I connect with myself and others in deeper and more meaningful ways – including my children.
I have moments where I retreat into my former people-pleasing self and wonder if my decisions and behaviors will be viewed with approving eyes. Still, I feel lighter as I continue to push forward and question myself less. I find strength in living unapologetically. This mindset is where I find my power in a world and a diagnosis where so much is ultimately out of my control. This awakening, brought on by diagnosis, hasn’t been easy for some. It turns out that some people weren’t ready for this change in me and didn’t understand. I hadn’t asked their permission or guidance and hadn’t prepped them for the changes before they happened. I embraced it and I think it left them scared and confused.
I’m still young, ever learning, growing, and evolving, but I think I was given a gift earlier than most. I was faced with a certain uncertainty in my physical and mental future. I don’t know what my body or my mind will do tomorrow. That realization made me let go and embrace my experience with more vigor and determination than I would have otherwise had and for that, I have gratitude.