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.
Officially a lifetime carrier and member of a band called multiple sclerosis.
The question is, what will you do with that membership? Use it? Abuse it? Throw it out?
As it turned out, on that fateful day, I knew I would be using this broken vehicle as a tool of some sorts, perhaps to help others. And yes, yes… Knowing how difficult it is for me to accept help, you can stop whispering “Help anyone but yourself!”
The end of each year reminds me of the beginning of new chapter in my life, a new life that started so many years ago. I retired from work, not because I wanted to, but because my neurologist, GP and an occupational doctor said it was time.
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, these doctors all have beautiful, shiny frames with medical achievements hanging on their office walls.
Looking back at my physical self between the end of 2009 and today, my MS took a relatively 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, so if I wanted anything to work out in my life, let it be my early retirement.
Of course, I want and need 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 incredible 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.
It 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 prolonged period of feeling down. Prolonged in this context means “about three or four weeks, and perhaps less than that.”
The reason was trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and learning how to tiptoe around it. Granted, you can just as well try tiptoeing around a ballet stage in tall Dr Martens boots, but you get the idea.
Facial pain doesn’t come easy. When it hits, it hits you badly. During that period, I was emotionally catapulted back to the six months of near-torture before my diagnosis.
Nobody knew what was causing the pain.
Even today, it’s hard to find answers.
What do you take, what do you use, how, when, who, where. It’s like going in with a sledgehammer when looking for a tiny vein 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 earlier this year. 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.
We ‘get’ each other without having to say two words.
They couldn’t have entered my life at a better time.
We say, “Are you 100% sure you are not my twin-sister?!”
That close, that right, that brilliant.
Five years of forced retirement went by fast, and I learned more about myself than I could have done had MS not changed the way my life was run.
I learned to let go.
I learned to trust life again.
People’s perceptions are what they are. If I can’t change their idea about what my life should be, then perhaps changing my own view is all I need.
More information about trigeminal neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia on Wikipedia
Neuralgia, trigeminal on the HSE website
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. 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.