You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have… How true is this?
You lose a parent, a brother or sister, or someone else you dearly loved, and yet time goes on. Time has to go on. For your family, for yourself. Years later you realize you went through that loss maybe a bit better than you ever thought you would. Because being strong was the only option you had.
Being diagnosed with an illness that can’t be cured is a little bit similar. Or is it?
The day I received my multiple sclerosis diagnosis is a day I can almost literally re-phrase. Just like the day you lose someone you love, or the day when absolutely horrifying accidents happen. We all know where we were and what we did on 9/11. Diagnosis, losing someone, global events… They have a way of being imprinted on your eyes and brain.
I remember which clothes I wore when I went to the hospital to meet my professor of neurology. What was said. What I should do. What I shouldn’t do. But… nothing about accepting your fate and moving on with it. If we were allowed to be happy, or if we should get a psychologist while we’re discussing which doctors I will need to attend from now on? Surely I’d need a psychologist to talk me through the first few years of letting a part of myself go, right?
Six years later, I’ve let my old self go and I quit my job, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Three different medical professionals told me to, so I did and thought that life couldn’t get any worse, at least for a couple of days anyway. The big emptiness was staring in my face and almost jokingly said “Well, how are you going to deal with this little Missy Workaholic and adrenaline-seeker?” Being strong was the only option I had. Being strong is still the only option I have.
Sure, you find a new way of living, you move on and try to do it as gracefully as you possibly can. OK, I might be wobbly on my legs, but I’m still trying to do it gracefully. Nobody would ever suspect me from having wobbly legs because sure, I don’t look sick, right? Or nobody would suspect me from having mad headaches, eye pains and nerve pains every day and night because surely, if you can write and if I am on the internet joking away, I’m alright, right? (According to some). Still doing it gracefully. And nobody would suspect me from being severely fatigued when I go to the cinema or go for a drive with a friend or go out for a meal. Little do those people know that there’s about 30 tablets a day helping me stay on my feet and awake, or that I have to rest beforehand and go straight to bed after doing such activities. Still… Gracefully. Because it’s the only option I have.
A lot of people automatically think that because you are sick, you are not allowed to be happy anymore. As if being sick is really the end of the world. It’s not. It’s an inconvenience. It’s about how you look at yourself. Life goes on, even for sick people. Outwardly we might not be walking around in a graceful manner, or eating properly, or slurring our words, making other people think you’re drunk when in fact you don’t use alcohol at all.
Being strong is the only option I have. And the only option you have. So enjoy life, it’s there for the taking. Carpe Diem, isn’t that what it’s all about?
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.