Ruth Humleker, a profoundly political, strongly opinionated and utterly fearless woman once said, “I can change only myself, but sometimes that is enough.” With her words often on replay in my head, I think back to that day.
Yes… t-h-a-t day in April 2005.
Diagnosed. Officially a lifetime carrier and member of a band called multiple sclerosis. Question is, what will you do with that membership? Use it? Abuse it? Throw it out?
As it turned out, soon after t-h-a-t day, I knew I would be using this broken vehicle as a tool of some sorts, perhaps to help others. And yes, yes… you can stop whispering “anyone but yourself!”
The end of November marks the beginning of new chapter in my life, a new life that started exactly five years ago. I retired from work, not because I wanted to, but because my neurologist, GP and occupational doctor said it was time to.
When three different doctors on your medical team start singing from the same hymn sheet, you rather tend to follow, don’t you. I suppose they were right. After all, they had nice, shiny frames with medical achievements hanging on their office walls.
Looking back at my physical self between the end of November 2009 and today, my MS took a fairly big step backwards twice. With hindsight being 20/20, retiring was the right thing to do. I cannot even think where I’d be medically had I not retired, so if I wanted anything to work out in my life, then please let it be my early retirement.
Of course, I want to remain active somehow and I try to do so within the limits of my abilities. Too many times, I have tried doing more, and too many times, I ended up worse for wear afterwards. So, I don’t complain. There are worse things in life.
In the five past years, I’ve gathered more wisdom than I did in seven years of employment in a foreign country. Saying it was an amazing period full of entertainment would be a lie, but being an eternal optimist, I try to squeeze every bit of sunshine out of every situation.
In the last five years, I genuinely grew as a person: I found myself, and in doing so, found my place in the grander scheme of things. What’s even more important, I am happy and at ease with my new life.
This may sound overly philosophical to some, but it was a mental manifestation I might not have experienced was it not for being diagnosed with MS and having to retire early in life.
It may also surprise people, but in the past five years, I only had one or two prolonged periods of feeling down. Prolonged in this context means “about four or five weeks, and it might be less than that.”
The reason was trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and learning how to tiptoe around it for a long period of time. Granted, you can just as well try tiptoeing around a ballet stage in tall Dr Martens boots, but you get the idea. What do you take, what do you use, how, when, who, where are all questions that mainly remain unanswered when you connect them to TN. It’s like going in with a sledgehammer when looking for a tiny vain in your arm… It’s not always pretty as punch.
But… a real life-size-kind-of-BUT… As unscrupulous as TN has been, as wonderful is a group of people I met through the Irish MS Society. We’ve become a tight band of people as we all share MS, love for writing, as well as many funny, whacky or just plain awful MS stories. The gang does a great job in making me forget about my aching body, so what’s not to love. It’s like, “Are you 100% sure you are not my twin-sister?!?” when we talk. That close, that good, that… brilliant.
Five years of forced retirement went by so fast. I learned lots; I learned to let go, I learned to trust life again and I learned that whatever about people’s perceptions on my life, that, if I can’t change people’s ideas about what my life should be, then perhaps changing my view on myself was all I needed.
To finish this blog post, do get back to me with the best thing to come out of your diagnosis. The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny… go for it!
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