MS and Normality

They say that people with MS can live a “normal life”. I have been diagnosed almost 2 years and I disagree with that statement. If by “normal” they mean “restricted”, then sure, you can live said life. Yes, for the most part I am able to do what any other “normal”person can do, but, my abilities are restricted. It’s the simple little things that build up after a while and you start to feel frustrated and not so “normal”.

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I along with 80% of MSers struggle with fatigue. Click here to read my blog on fatigue. This is definitely the most frustrating symptom to live with. Being so tired a lot of the time is far from “normal”. I could wake up a little sleepy, who doesn’t? But, all of a sudden when I get downstairs my energy is zapped! My legs feel heavy, my eyes won’t stay open and I have no enthusiasm or interest in doing anything. Just like that, I’m as good as a vegetable. Now, imagine that I have plans to go to a concert. I have been looking forward to this event for months. I feel like a dead weight and I’m supposed to drive an hour up the road to see this gig. How sh*t is that? I’m sure you understand how utterly infuriating that is!

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Another thing that makes me feel different is when I go to the gym. I have different exercises that I do because my body isn’t able to do the regular ones. I know that its great being able to go to the gym full stop, but, when your programme has to be changed because your balance isn’t great or you get tired much faster than everyone else; it’s a bit of a kick up the hole. I need a fan on me for the majority of the time because I suffer from heat intolerance. Meaning, symptoms can appear while my body is over heated. I usually get dizzy, my vision gets blurry and every ounce of energy get sucked out of me like a vampire sucking blood from it’s prey. Not a very pleasant experience, to say the least. This is frustrating, and most importantly, embarrassing. Having to stop your workout in front of people who are exercising diligently is heart-breaking. I was trying just as hard as they were, but, because of this stupid illness I was forced to stop. How is that anyway “normal”? Why do I get punished for doing something that is vital in keeping healthy as exercising? It makes me so mad. When one is diagnosed with MS one hears a lot of phrases like “you will live a normal life”, “you are no different than anyone else”. How about you tell that to this stupid disease? Enraging. Everyone has a limit, but, mine seems to be lower than Liverpool on the Premier League table. I have to do everything slower. Start off with lower weights, walk slowly as opposed to briskly, and get up from seating positions (on the ground or bench) gradually because of my balance and the fact that I’m prone to dizzy spells. That is not normal!

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Not only do I have to exercise with caution, but, I must choose which career to pursue with care. I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Apparently this is the perfect job for someone like me, someone with MS. I can sit down, I don’t have to do a lot of walking, I can do part-time hours, not much stress is involved (allegedly), the holidays, the weekends etc. How is this normal? Having to pick your career based on your health and physical abilities. This disease is unfair, what illness isn’t though? It’s annoying that I have to think about my distant future at the age of 22. I have only just got my degree, now I have to think about things like “What if I relapse?” “What if I need time off to get an MRI?” “What if I have to go home due to feeling unwell?” “What if my medication doesn’t work and I need time off to start my new meds?” All of these questions need to be accommodated for before I can pick the career path that I want to follow. Someone please tell me how this is normal. I understand that many people have to ask themselves questions before they can pursue their desired occupation, but, do they have to ask themselves questions like I do?

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I do still strongly believe in positive thinking, but it can be hard to stay positive all the time. Sometimes the little things build up and you just feel like exploding. You realise that you’re not in fact “normal” and you are in fact “different”. Once you come to this realisation its another step that you have to take in accepting this stupid disease. It’s hard for people to understand the mental turmoil MSers go through. They hear that we can live a normal life and then assume that we are normal. I am not “normal” and I will not be “normal” for the rest of my live. I am different, and its up to me to find a way to live with that. MSers feel the need to do things on their own and keep up with everyone else in order to keep their pride and live up to this “normal” façade that has been created. Its hard for me to ask for help, even though I know that everyone is willing to help me. People with MS feel hopeless when they ask for help, we are not “normal”. We need help, we need understanding, and we need patience. Not just from others, but, from ourselves. If we can’t accept this disease for what it is, negativity will take over and life will undoubtedly become more frustrating and more infuriating. MS is hard to live with. Physically it is heart-breaking, pride knocking and exasperating to boot. I feel that this disease is much harder on one’s mental health than any other aspect. If you can’t stay positive you’re in big trouble. Accept who you are, you have to live with this disease for the foreseeable future. It is not the opinions of others that MSers should worry about, but, the opinions we have of ourselves. If we can’t find a reason to keep going and plough through this illness will eat you up and spit you out without hesitation.

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Life comes with ups and downs. Unfortunately, for those who have MS depression can be a very prevalent symptom. The feeling of being “abnormal” and “different” definitely doesn’t help us. Although we try our best to fit in and be normal, sometimes its just not possible. The mental anguish that one goes through is appalling. Being told by doctors who have no concept of what it is like to personally have the disease that you are normal and just like everyone else makes my blood boil. Yes, I can do as others do, just in slow motion so I fall behind or so that I will never catch up. The pace of my life is far inferior to than of a “normal” person. It is frustrating, but, you have to carry on. You have to live your life, not theirs. One must not compare oneself to another if they are to possess happiness. Keep living. Albeit in the fast lane, or the slow lane; never give up.

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Being Diagnosed

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I sat down, watched as my neurologist opened my chart and then I waited. I felt my heart jumping out of my chest; “be good news, let it be good news.” That’s all I remember going through my head. He looked down at the papers in front of him; drawing his hands together he linked his fingers and took a deep breath in. Before looking me straight in the eyes, his expression changed. His face dropped. “Shit.” I thought to myself.  I knew by the look on his face that he didn’t want to tell me the news as much as I didn’t want to hear it.

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He began to explain to me that the protein they were looking for in the lumber puncture was positive for the one commonly found with Multiple Sclerosis. I froze; my sense of time was non-existent. My mind went completely blank. I remember these thoughts rushing through my mind; “What do I do now?” “What would happen to me?” I can recall a strange “play” dramatize in my mind. I was like the damsel in distress, sitting on a chair in the middle of the room. The room started to get smaller and smaller, fear and uncertainty began to set in. Can you say “overwhelmed”?

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After what seemed like decades, I felt my head begin to nod. I could feel a soft smile wipe across my face and next thing I know I’m hearing my voice, its saying; “okay. It could be worse.” I wasn’t thinking; these words were just coming out of my mouth. It was like an automatic reaction. Who was saying this? Why are my lips moving and where is the sound of my voice coming from?

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Next thing I know my neurologist began to explain the different types of treatment that were available to me. His mouth was moving, but, at that time I remember thinking “I’ll just walk out of the door and when I come back in we’ll try this again.” Yeah, good logic, Karolyn! Don’t be stupid!

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Suddenly, I’m sitting in the car, texting and calling people while being totally absent minded.  “I have MS.” I didn’t even know what it was. Now I’ve just been told that I have it, this was surely just a dream? From then on the day just blended together. Time still had no meaning to me. I recall repeating to myself; “everything will be okay”, just for reassurance and a sense of calm, I think. The last thing that I remember from that day is going upstairs to my room and crying for what felt like hours. Tears rolled out of my eyes until I had no more tears to shed. My whole world had just crumbled and started to suffocate me. “How am I supposed to deal with this?” “What will MS do to me?”

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It’s pretty safe to say that my initial reactions was denial, shock, fear, uncertainty and most importantly, un-fucking-lucky!

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Over the next few days I started to feel a lot of hatred towards myself. What was wrong with me? Had I done something to deserve this? Was Karma just giving me the finger? Then it clicked. There was a voice inside my head that shouted “shut the fuck up and grow a pair!” You know what? I’m damn well glad that I came to that assumption! What in the world was I thinking? Was I a depressing bitch or what? Feeling all sorry for myself was only making things worse! For some unknown reason I was chosen to carry the burden of Multiple Sclerosis. So, I decided, I’ll carry it with pride and by no means was it going to change who I was! I am me NOT Multiple Sclerosis.

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I could have been given 6 months, that’s what I’d tell myself. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been a hell of a lot better too! But, what was this negative attitude doing to me? What was it doing for me? Sweet fuck all, that’s what! From then on, I changed how I felt about my diagnosis. It wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t life or death. It was just something that I had to adapt to. Humans are experts at that, after all. So, I caught my upset, denial, uncertainty and hatred, locked it into an imaginary box and replaced those feelings with unicorns, rainbows and marshmallows! Ha..yeah..no. I just took MS in my stride. I wanted to show everyone that I could do it. Multiple Sclerosis was NOT going to defeat me. I would show people that I am stronger than my diagnosis and something as little as MS would not stop me!

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I still get bad days, we all do. With or without MS. I just get back on my noble steed and continue towards the sunset! Laugh and be merry! And all of that shit.

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