Bad tidings always happen when you least expect it. Your plans for tonight, next week or the following year get punched right in the stomach and you have to regroup. Not only does rearranging your life involve more people than just yourself; your family, friends and colleagues need to find out where you and your plans will eventually fit in. Parameters of life get reset and the future-plan question during your last job interview pops back in your mind: “Where do you see yourself in five years from now?”
I truthfully replied that I had aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder and that I wanted to combine this with studying. This was the interview that would lead me to living in Ireland and I ultimately worked in the company for 7 years. Not a single moment did I anticipate though that the long-term answer would or could be halted for some reason.
However, two and a half years later that answer was shredded to bits. I had surgery in my abdomen three months before puzzling symptoms started, and I knew immediately that what was going on was not right. For approximately six months I had inexplicable pains and bouts of intense tiredness. I just started a new relationship and things at work were moving along nicely. Busy, fatigued and in pain, yes but nevertheless I had a fantastic time.
What happened then changed my life forever. No one practices what living with a serious illness is like, so I had to improvise upon hearing that I had relapsing/remitting . There were no textbooks to show me what my five year plan would change in to, if I would still be at work, or if I would deteriorate so fast I had to move back to my native country.
In the blink of an eye I had to add another layer in my life, one that consists of hospitals, neurologists, lots of medication and retirement. The last two and a half years of my five year plan were not what I had in mind, but this was it and life had to go on. A few weeks of feeling negative turned into 8 years of now being positive no matter what happens on a medical level.
Not only did my life move on, that of my friends, family and colleagues also did. We each had to reinvent how to deal with each other and how not to be a liability to each other. I was that intent on living life as before; it seemed as if I was reading a script of a life that belonged to someone else. Not wanting to give in when I couldn’t walk as fast as my friends anymore. Falling asleep in the cinema and having to cancel meet ups because I was in a lot of neuropathic pain in my left side. That was not ‘me,’ that was the ‘other me.’
Slowly but surely I became a liability at work, but also to myself. Arranging meeting up with people a week in advance was next to impossible as I did not know how I would wake up in the morning. Going to work was getting harder to do also as fatigue was always there, together with eye and facial pains. Once again my employer’s question what I saw myself doing in five years time popped up in my mind. I still wanted to work for the company because I loved my job, the independence they gave me and I met fantastic people during my 7 year with them.
No matter how much support I received from people, isolation started to become an issue as I had to withdraw from society. I didn’t want to drag others down to my level of life but others began to avoid me because they could not handle my illness. I still wonder if those who left found it hard to talk to me about it or if they just had enough of me lagging behind, and because of this, I started doubting myself for a short period of time.
Life still went on and early-onset fear and doubt turned into being wiser, stronger and life with MS became a life full of self-realization. I can now say ‘no’ to people or things without feeling awful whereas before I would have jumped when they asked me to. I now say ‘yes’ to what I can do opposed to saying ‘yes’ to what I knew I couldn’t do. It’s a pity I needed to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before realizing how to live abundant, happy and in touch with myself, but such is life.
My five year plan turned out completely the opposite of what I wanted at first, but it’s made me richer than any kind of materialistic life ever could.
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. 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.