For so many, Multiple Sclerosis is filled with times of intense struggle followed by periods of calm. During the calm a new normal is found that consists of changing how everyday tasks are done and limiting those things that are not as important. Meds, vitamins, diet, exercise, and working to stay as stress free as possible helps to manage the symptoms and life goes on. Years pass by. Relapses happen and with each relapse a new normal is found and the process continues.
I wish I was one of those people. I wish I could say, like so many do, that I have had MS for 20 years and am still going strong or that it’s been 10 years and my symptoms are still the same, but I have never had a period of time when something wasn’t changing. I’ve never really known a relapse. MS has been fast progressing and aggressive for me. I know I’m part of a smaller population of MSers, but I think it’s important for the world to know that not all MS is the same.
Sure, I am encouraged by the stories of people with MS who advance in their careers, run marathons, and are seen on TV giving a face to MS. What bothers me are the numbers of people that think MS isn’t that bad, after all just look at so-and-so on TV or watch this video I saw of how someone follows a special diet and now lives symptom free.
We have done a fairly good job at informing the world that MS exists, but not so good at explaining that it can be cruel, painful, debilitating, and that a cure has not yet been found. Yes, I agree that not everyone will end up in a wheelchair unable to manage life on their own, but it happens and we have to be sure we are sharing both the good and the bad with the world so they know the truth and not just the positive, brave side we like to portrait. Being positive doesn’t mean denying what is going on in your life and hiding those things from others. It’s acknowledging the ugliness of MS and choosing to push through anyway.
I never asked to get sick, to have to quit my job, to live day by day with struggles. That was never a part of my long term goals in life. I work hard every day to stay positive, encourage others and even encourage myself. But you know, some days I have to talk myself into getting out of bed. It’s true. I have even been known to argue with myself as I work up the strength to get a shower to start my day.
It’s hard. But even in the impossible, I see good things around me. I see people smiling because I said something funny. I see strangers extending a helping hand when I’m struggling to get the door open or needing help to get something from the top shelf. I see love in action and joy in some of the strangest moments.
No matter how difficult your day is, look up from your struggle and take a deep breath. What are some things in life that make you smile, that warm your heart, that bring you joy? Hang on to those things today. It won’t make the day easier but it will make the load lighter. MS is different for everyone, but pain is pain, struggle is struggle, change is change. Today is not a “give up” day…it’s a “get up” day.