The day my world fell apart

One of the most difficult days in my life was the day I handed my boss the resignation letter that ended my career. I had been raised to take pride in my work and to work hard to make something of myself. Quitting just didn’t fit that mindset. It went against everything I knew.

I loved my work but as each day passed, I could see the drastic decline in my abilities. I was continually missing deadlines and would forget how to do even the simplest of tasks. What I enjoyed so much had become a struggle. I tried for months to make it work, covering up my mistakes with quick witted replies and longer hours, but deep down I knew it was time to make a change. I knew my decline was pulling those around me down and that they deserved better than I was able to give.

The thought of no longer working ripped me apart inside. I knew my work did not define me, but I could feel life changing so fast that it scared me. Life wasn’t suppose to turn out this way. MS wasn’t suppose to happen.

The worst part for me was when my last day finally came—the day I shut down my computer and turned the light off for the last time in my office. There were no farewells or goodbyes, no cakes or cards, nothing to even suggest my entire life was about to drastically change. That day ended just like every other day.

I remember walking to my car doing all I could to hold back the tears. My thoughts were screaming at me, “Doesn’t anybody care. My life is over. I’m scared and don’t know what I’m going to do,” but no one could hear the screams. No one saw the tears.

That night I cried myself to sleep. Depression hit hard. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. A life of PJ’s and Netflix sounded like a pretty good plan to me. The grieving was real and it was slowly taking over my life. The worthlessness I felt was overwhelming.

The emotional roller coaster I landed on took me completely by surprise. After all, I was always the positive one; I was the one that could find the good in anything, but where was the good in a life-long career coming to an end? Where was the good in MS taking away something I loved? I just couldn’t see it.

It took time and a lot of hard work to pull myself out of the despair that swallowed me up. It wasn’t easy either. I had to keep reminding myself every day that my work did not define me and neither did MS. I would tell myself, “I am who I am, and I’m pretty spectacular and uniquely amazing at that. Not because of what I can or can’t do. Just because I’m me.” Eventually I stood tall once again, but I have to admit that I still have moments when a tear shows up.

I don’t think the people looking in at my life during that time truly understood the extent of pain and heartbreak I was going through all because of a chronic illness that was slowly stealing bits and pieces of my life away. That kind of crushing and breaking…I hope others don’t have to go through. It was a tsunami of a storm that seemed impossible to survive.

If you are in a storm right now, know that no matter how hopeless things appear to be today, there is a brighter tomorrow. Keep pushing through the tears and the pain because you really have a great future ahead of you. MS doesn’t have the final say. Plans may have to change and you may have to shift how you do things, but you are in charge of your life and you can accomplish anything you set your heart and mind to.

Cry if you need to, even scream if that helps you release the pain, but give your heart time to heal. I know it’s scary…the unknown. “How will I? How can I? What about? What’s next?” I know, it’s terrifying to take a step forward when you can’t even see the road in front of you. But regardless of how you feel, I can tell you with confidence that you aren’t a failure, stupid or broken. You are a somebody…and being a somebody is the best thing anybody could ever be.

MS Gets on My NervesMS WarriorMS Superhero  


About the Author
About the Author
Penelope Conway

Penelope Conway
Penelope started Positive Living with MS as a way to help others with MS stay positive in the midst of a terrible disease. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day. Multiple Sclerosis may never go away, but neither will her determination and her drive to help others through the journey.

104 replies
  1. jen mooney
    jen mooney says:

    I think sick or well you did the right thing for you- but the people you worked for did not do the right thing for you.
    Good for you for not staying with a company that didn’t have its employees be the top priority. Not even a small dinner? nothing to say farewell- how awful…that stayed with me for a long time. I have been at the same place for 15 years-my own business-they -my crew make life easier for me so I can work and at times I just go in my car or go home 20 minutes in- but this is about caring- about a team- There is no reason for me to quit or downsize, besides who is going to pay the rent or my food bill- I own my own business so if I quit, every one is out of work- some days I stay home- but it passes hopefully and it breeds understanding because it is a very short step between where I am and where they could be-and I will always take care of the people that work for me. Thanks for the article. So sorry about the lack of empathy at your workplace-

  2. Carla Broadbent Rogers
    Carla Broadbent Rogers says:

    Be well. “Life” becomes a four letter word sometime. Full of surprises, loves, hates, disappointments and what the hells. We have to try and make the best of each and every moment. When all is said and done and we choose a fluffy cloud or a hot rock the book with all the answers will be there. Until the we do what we need to do and smile and say thank you for another day. Be well.

  3. Tracy Weaver says:

    Ugh, sorry that you felt that low but glad that I just experienced that and it was timely to read your post. I know it is going to be a process with hilltop and deep cravases. Just glad I also have the full steam ahead gene, and I hope to depend on it when I am at a low.

  4. Avril
    Avril says:

    I cannot tell you how much this article to me!!! Thank you so much for eloquently sharing just how it really feels.

  5. May Mansell says:

    Heartbreaking for u all, my lovely husband has MS he had to leave work a year ago after nearly 30 years on shifts at the same company, gets next to nothing pip wise compared to his salary, roles reversed now I’m full time and he is a fantastic house husband and tries his very best to do the chores at home and sort the kids out, we all have to be positive and beat this

  6. Marybeth Carpenito Mercier says:

    My saddest day was the day I had to apply for disability benefits. The plan was to work forever not to retire at 60. I had been working as the disease became more bothersome, but fatigue and increasing gait issues took over. I try to put in perspective that it could much worst, but it does not help. I’m selfish. I want my ability to walk normally, not use a walker with the pace slower than a snail. My goal now is to create a fund raiser for MS patients do medicine help as well mobility devices.

  7. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    That takes me back a few years Penelope. I was quickly taken from my work in 1999 by MS and didn’t have time to grieve only get frustrated by the events. I had been at work the previous day thinking nothing like this would stop me. Then on the morning of that Wednesday I went for the steroid treatment and broke down horribly being struck with mobility problems taking 15 minutes for a 2 minute walk. That was my last day and it all went bad after that.
    That was 16 years ago and I am still alive, gone through a lot more than I could ever think of. I’m still going through Hell but I know there is a light ahead so I’m looking toward it.

  8. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    I am a 71-YO cancer patient who am seeing my world slowly contracting as I am able to do fewer and fewer of the things I love. I still have hope that there will be enough good days that I can accomplish some of the things on my to-do list — the IMPORTANT to-do list. If it weren’t that I have faith that God has a future for me, in heaven if not here on earth, I would have to say despair is winning out over hope.

  9. Kathy Buys says:

    Did the same to me & not near where I am today. I miss working, having a need, my pts, & of course $$. It was never expected nor a desire for this to happen. : {

  10. Ian Hales says:

    It was absolutely one of the toughest days of my life too – I loved my job – I changed my hours 5 times – but relapses were coming hard and fast and I could no longer continue I was told by s very good occupational health consultant. Hardest thing I ever did – I still miss it now after 6 years of not working – but it’s been essential for my well being. I fully empathise with anyone who had to also retire early. So important for our self esteem and wellbeing to work – I worked with a wonderful team too at the children’s centres for the NHS – Deb

  11. Mary Devereux says:

    I am reaching that point i am going back after 4 weeks off on a 3 day week my ms has taken my cognitive abilites its like pushing through a black hole with no ending i have written so many resignation letters but handed none in one of the days i will

  12. Michelle Rathbun says:

    I’m crossing my fingers that I can make to retirement (over a decade away). I was fortunate to find my current position – I could no longer keep up with the demands of my last position, and I was heartbroken when I resigned.

  13. Carol Horger West says:

    Thank you! Wow! Sometimes it’s not just leaving your career, it’s also how the ones closest to you treat you as well. When you just can’t and people doubt you. I couldn’t stop crying while reading this.

  14. Iffat Nosheen says:

    Same here.my room wz on second floor.requested to shift me down but what she said”sorry i cant help it,if u have to work,have to continue like this.” N the build didnt have ramp or lift.special need kid was on the same floor.her life wz misery as well.one person used to carry her and other her chair daily to upstairs.

  15. Michelle Mandrell Flynn says:

    After trying and trying at work for years with similar results, eventually cutting hours, reducing some of the work, having my GP, neurologist, and psychiatrist telling me over and over for multiple years that the work needed to go, I stopped. It came down to my psychiatrist saying “You ARE done!”, and to go home even though it was midday. She spoke with my neurologist and, with my permission, called my boss who was NEVER supportive of my condition. Both docs sent her a follow up letter to my boss and HR and that was it. Approval for disability came through within 6 months.

  16. Susan Krasch says:

    I haven’t had this with MS as of yet, but I can relate when I resigned. I was going to start dialysis. I went in crying and told my boss goodbye on the spot. I had to have emergency surgery this next day. Not the way I had planned out my life, but life throws us curveballs every once in awhile.

  17. Rhona Kingett
    Rhona Kingett says:

    It was my husband who pointed out that I spent my life either at work or making sure I was well enough to go to work. I had no other life. Fortunately my work colleagues were very supportive and still stay in contact with me and include me in Christmas meals and encourage me to hold MS Cake Breaks like I used to when I was working. I miss working but my health and life are a little more under my control.

  18. Joyce Steiner says:

    ah. yes.. we all have been through it or will go through it.. I had to close my salon and retire.. I was only 55.. what the heck?.. it broke my heart.. had built relationships with clients.. but we much so what me must do

  19. Jennifer McElroy Frame says:

    5 years ago I gave up staff nursing, and I agree, it was one of the hardest things to do. I also went into a deep depression, but counseling helped me through it. I continue to teach very part time and just got my MS nursing certification to help others through this fight. You are so right it was a very hard time but we have to move forward.

  20. Maria Garcia says:

    Your story made me cry, I too had to leave a job much to early that I enjoyed , I put on a brave face said my goodbyes, and retired. Took a financial hit but making it work. God bless everyone that has to deal with this.

  21. Sherry Wood says:

    Prayers to all of the people, that have to live w/this disease, it takes & only gives a clear vision of HELL..it’s been 20+ years & my short term memory & cognitive took the blunt of this damaging disease, I quit my career in July-2000, that I loved, my family was destroyed, turned my world upside down & I never have been the same, since..all I can do, is watch from inside looking out, as it destroys, like an evil Hell, that I never asked for & fighting every day, for everything, just to survive, SS turned it’s back on me.. living on God’s good graces..God Bless to all

  22. Kari Petersen says:

    I had to give up a 14 year teaching career in 2012. I just couldn’t do it anymore but couldn’t see it. I’m taking grad classes on a part time basis to get my MSW. It’s a job (LCSW)I can do 3/4ths or 1/2 time and still get decent income.

    • Kari Petersen says:

      Masters level social worker and licensed clinical social worker. With LCSW I can do therapy and Bill insurance, Medicare, Medicaid. It’s an environment I can use a scooter or other mobility device plus it’s not the attention/focus level that a class of 25-30 6th graders.

    • Kat Perry says:

      Guess it depends what area of social work you’re talking about. I had to stop work at the beginning of this year and I’ve been a social worker for the last 20 years. I can tell you now most areas of social work require extremely high capacity for concentration and ability to prioritise and task manage as well as retain large amounts of information.

    • Kat Perry says:

      Also a hugely emotionally draining and stressful career which clashes nicely with a disease like MS. I worked in child protection and also a tertiary paediatric hospital.

    • Kari Petersen says:

      Yep depends on the situation and place. I’m mentally fine it’s my legs that are the issue. I’m an adoptive parent of 3 boys from foster care so I won’t do that. I’m looking at clinical and school based.

  23. Cheryl Cabot Tarter says:

    I truly LOVED my work but like so many after being diagnosed for 20 years my work was slipping. I tried working more and harder but that didn’t help. Now the disability insurance I paid for all of those years has said no more after just 18 months. The hits just keep coming. MS and society really holds us prisoner.

  24. Anne Corse Tyndall says:

    I was laid off in Jan 2015 forcing me to finally file for disability. It was a hard day. I cried and was depressed for 3 days then it hit me like a lightning bolt how hard I had been working at work at the cost of my “life”. I was fortunate to have to great support of a loving husband and got on with putting all my energy into those things I’d been neglecting yet love to do. Not working has also allowed me to go with my husband when he has to travel out of town on business and also travel overseas for a few months to spend quality time with my aging parents. It was hard but a blessing in disguise

  25. Sherri Rempel says:

    I had the same thing here. Worked full time between geriatric nursing and dental assisting jobs but it really took a toll on my body. I kept trying but just couldn’t do it anymore. I miss working and the ‘family’ I had with the staff and residents.
    I hate MS with a passion!!!! Having to quit work at the age of 30 was Not in my life plans

  26. Barbara Skinner says:

    I had to do the same. Start a new task, get distracted, start a new one, get distracted, etc…. I would forget employees names. Forgetting to do the closing computer to end the day, would have to have help desk reboot everything in the morning. Very short tempered with my staff. Plus having to be off work for 5 days in the hospital for steroid IV treatments. I knew I was over my head. Worked in retail over 20 years and I knew enough was enough.

  27. Corinné Fouché says:

    I was crying like a baby when I read your post, because I was crying when I handed in my resignation letter. I was still in denial and believed I could make my body work better somehow! U are truly an inspiration to me and I’m sure many other people reading ur posts. I thank the Lord for someone as positive and motivating as you!

  28. April Jenkins Amos says:

    I can totaly relate. Today, 9/30/16, is my LAST DAY WORKING. I’m scared. I love what I do and don’t want to retire but I feel like I have to to be able to maintaion my health. How will we make it? What about insurance? I least I have a pension coming to help while waiting for SSI. One day at a time I guess…

    • Juana Driver says:

      Totally agree with you both. 2005 after switching jobs. Sad day but a relief as I started my new journey. So miss my clients and some fellow employees. The true friends are a real blessing yet some will never understand our true struggle.

  29. Leslie Beaver says:

    Well said. I also enjoyed my work. And the social element of working in a large office. But it became time. And the look of relief on my manager’s face said everything. I too had been declining. But he had not ever said anything.

  30. Kevin McPherson says:

    I had the same history of steadily declining performance after years of excelling at my job. The loss of my career was devastating! It still hurts every day when I realize the total cost of having this horrible illness.

  31. Debbie Owens
    Debbie Owens says:

    Once again, you are articulating many of the same emotions I felt losing a successful career that I loved. I believe in life we must have a purpose and goals. Without those two things, I’ve been asking myself some very serious questions and doing a great deal of soul searching. I’m 51 what will motivate me and drive me each day? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? I didn’t define myself by my job however, it gave me a purpose and goals. I am no longer able to work due to the rapid advancement of my MS. I miss the responsibilities that I had…I miss the crazy schedule…I miss the travel…I miss my coworkers and clients…I miss providing my professional opinion and having it valued. (trust me, you don’t want me providing professional advice of any kind. I can’t even remember my husband’s name half of the time). For me MS is a moving target. It’s difficult to plan for tomorrow, set goals, and have a game plan when I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. With that said, I’m fiesty and determined to make lemonade with these lemons. After the Lemonade is made, I plan to tackle a lemon meringue pie!! Lol

  32. Genevieve
    Genevieve says:

    I so needed to read this. I have just finished working after 12 years in the same place. I know it’s not the end but a corner in the road. I plan to retrain early next year and enter a different field with less physical demands. At the moment it just hurts I feel that I have been robbed of a career that I have loved and been useful in. But that’s what MS does, it robs us of parts of our lives, I will not give up I will start again on a new page and write a new story.

  33. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Just laying in bed been thinking about how terrible my day was. Thinking how I don’t want tomorrow to come. It’s been s day of knock downs. Even getting knocked down before I even get up. Thanks for your kind words and encouragements.

  34. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Penelope, I’m sorry your office was so cold that they didn’t do anything to say goodbye. Perhaps that was why it was so difficult for you. On the other hand, if they had had some big party, you wouldn’t have wanted to leave.
    My coworkers had cake and cards for me at the end of the day. I was lucky to work with a good group of people.
    Went back to volunteer my time on several committees before really saying goodbye. At that point, I decided it was time to move on and explore other interests.

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