The Gifts That Multiple Sclerosis Has Given Me
It’s true that multiple sclerosis (MS) has taken many things from me.
A certain amount of independence. My career. My aspirations to be a geologist. Brain matter.
It’s also true that MS has given me aspects I’ve never had before.
When I was pushed into leaving full-time work as a journalist, I was crushed. I cried all the way home of my last day. But I also wrote a note to myself that I stowed inside my glove box. It said: “Write that f*#$ing book.”
I’d always wanted to be a writer, a novelist even. As a child, I’d been deeply in love with the written word. Not just reading, but also writing. I tied together pieces of paper to make them look like real books. As a journalist, I didn’t have a lot of time for writing for pleasure. More so, I was intimidated by writing a book. I didn’t think I had the courage to fail.
Once I was cornered into managing my health full-time and minimal part time work, however, I drew my attention to novel-writing. Publishing. Children’s books.
It was terrifying at first. I was still afraid I wasn’t professional enough, smart enough, clever enough, writerly-enough. I wrote my first book, though. It was awful. I wrote another. It was better. And I penned another. I improved. I made new friends, other writers. I landed a literary agent. I got my first book deal. Others followed, small contracts – but published novels nonetheless.
Without MS, I’m not sure I’d ever have had the drive and lack of fear to achieve my childhood dream. MS had already taken so much and instilled so much fear of the unknown in me, I had no choice anymore but to dive headlong into that same fear each and every day. It gave me the empowerment to tackle other fears.
MS also given me genuine friendships and relationships. I learned quickly who could handle the grim reality of a progressive, uncurable illness and who could not. The friends and family I still have in my life are the best. They are always here for me, they make me laugh, they bring me soup or offer to go to appointments with me. Others simply are nice to me. Which means a lot, because a lot of people are mean, or walked out on me without saying a word as to why.
Having MS has additionally brought me an unprecedented amount of tote bags. Really, if you want free tote bags, MS is the way to go. I have so many.
Seriously, MS has given me myself. I don’t know that I would have so much self-awareness and ability to know the very core of myself without this disease. MS made me focus not so much on the world, and the problems I cannot control, but on what I can. I focus on the good, what I can accomplish, who I can still be, and most of all, who I want to be and am every day.
Who is that girl? She’s a college graduate. A past hard-nosed journalist. A doting aunt. A sister. A daughter. A cat-owner. A novelist.
She’s a survivor.
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