Wednesday, March 20, 2024

What My MS Diagnosis Taught Me

My Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis was sudden and unexpected. Unlike others who undergo years of testing, monitoring, and uncertainty, my diagnosis occurred within two months after a major MS exacerbation. While it was a turbulent and scary experience, at least it was relatively quick.  

Because my diagnosis was swift and not anticipated, I learned serious illness can be invisible. Being healthy and having a chronic illness can both be true in the same body.  Things are not what they appear. Ultimately, I learned my normal wasn’t normal.  

My diagnosis taught me there would likely be drastic physical, irreversible consequences if I continued to live my life as I had been. Because I had so many lesions in my spinal cord and hadn’t recognized my MS symptoms for what they were, I realized MS had damaged my body for years before my diagnosis. This made it clear to me that regularly working long hours, pushing myself to exhaustion, and putting other people’s needs before my own would lead to further disease progression and disability. I understood there would be things I couldn’t control, and in the best of circumstances I may not be able to change the course of my disease, but I was determined to give it my best shot to change the trajectory of my health.  

It’s been a long, methodical process changing my life to align with my body’s needs, and I’m fortunate it’s made a difference. It’s been scary, and I learned I can gather the courage I need to get through the scariness. It’s been exhausting, and I learned I can and must build rest into my schedule. It’s been heartbreaking, and I learned the right relationships will accept and adapt to change. I learned I can live with people’s disappointment, and I learned people who truly care for me won’t be disappointed when relationships, plans, and expectations need to change for my well-being.

I learned I could still have ambition, but I needed to have realistic and compassionate expectations for myself. I realized I was the one putting a lot of pressure on myself, and I learned I can live with disappointment when I can’t do everything I want. I wanted to be a superwoman, and I learned I needed to rethink my goals. I learned I can still have purpose, fulfillment, and tremendous joy by accommodating my body’s needs. 

In more than 15 years since my surprise MS diagnosis, I’ve changed my partner, my home, and my career path. It’s been a wild ride dealing with challenges, improving my self-awareness, and adapting continuously. I didn’t choose this life, but I’ve chosen how to live it. 

I’ve matured, evolved, and become more myself than I ever would have allowed without this initial diagnosis and subsequent journey. My relationships, career, and experiences have far exceeded those I imagined before my MS diagnosis. 

To anyone experiencing a new MS diagnosis, I wish for you all you need to navigate an extremely challenging life event. I hope you have or find people to support you in your journey, and I hope you find contentment and fulfillment within the limits of things beyond your control. I promise it’s possible. 

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