People are mystified when I tell them that I’m thankful I have Multiple Sclerosis.
It was a long road, though. When I was struck with MS on January 1st, 2013, I was bed ridden for a month and a half. I could barely walk and found it difficult just going to the living room couch. I had no balance, vertigo and nausea. My vision and hearing were affected as well; I went deaf in one ear and I was partially blind.
I couldn’t write. I used to be able to type out 25, 000 words in a weekend. Now I couldn’t write anything. The stories still wanted to be told, but there was no way to do that. This was the most painful thing to me, beyond all the things that I couldn’t do. I am a writer and words are how I truly live.
After six weeks, when I started trying to get better, I had to force myself to get out of bed every morning. I walked with a cane and was still partially blind. I still needed help with simple things like doing the dishes, taking out the garbage and groceries. Even bathing was a chore. I kept falling when I would try to lower myself into the tub.
I did not recognize my life anymore. I had no idea who I was, who this monster was inside of me that had taken control of my life. I was finally diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in April, after months of not knowing what was wrong with me. May should have been a month of sunshine and brightness, but I call May 2013 my dark month. I almost took my life.
I thought that I would be okay with having Multiple Sclerosis, having been born with Cerebral Palsy. What was a disease on top of a disability, right? Turns out, it was more than I could deal with at the time. I had spiraled into a deep depression and all I could see were shadows and darkness. I had cut all of my friends out of my life. I thought that no one deserved to be around me, that I didn’t deserve anyone.
They had prescribed pills to help with the spasms. I remember sitting on the bench outside of work on my break and the pill bottle was sitting there. I did the only thing I could think of and called my mother.
When I told her that I wanted to end it, that I was so tired, she told me something that will forever stick with me: “I didn’t raise a quitter. Don’t you quit on me.”
From that day forward, I fought. I clawed with tooth and nail. I would not succumb. I was stronger than this. So I set about learning to do what I used to be able to do, all over again. I remember the first time I took out the garbage all by myself. It took me thirty minutes to do it, but when I finally lifted up the trash can to the dumpster and back down again, without falling down, I experienced a moment of euphoria that is hard to describe.
I started to write again. I could only do a handful of words at a time and I was able to stitch those together to become poems. I started walking on my breaks at work. It was slow going at first, but every step helped. I began to change my diet, eating healthier foods and quit smoking. However, I was forgetting to heal my Spirit as well as my body.
So I began with Tarot classes, submerging myself in anything that called to my Spirit. I took manifestation workshops and followed that up with Reiki. Throughout all of the spiritual learning, I began to notice a change in myself.
It started off small at first, like a seed inside of me. That seed grew into a bud and then the bud began to flower. I started to love myself, all of myself, even the Multiple Sclerosis. This didn’t happen overnight-there were still many dark days and self-doubt was in plenty. But I resolved to love everything about myself, even if I didn’t like it very much.
When the flower inside of me was in full bloom, I started to look at the world in a different way. Every sunrise, every sunset was a gift. Every good book, every story, every wonderful meal. I began to notice things I hadn’t before or had just taken for granted: the stars at night, the sound of people talking and birdsong. The world was the same, but I was seeing it through different eyes.
I tried to put a name to this feeling inside of me, tried to find a way to put into words what I was experiencing and kept falling short, a frustrating thing for a writer. Finally, it occurred to me what the flower was called: Thankfulness.
It was such a foreign concept to me. I realised over time that I had taken everything for granted, had just accepted everything as it was and didn’t think any further than that. Sure, I was grateful for a lot of things in my life, but I had never been thankful. I just accepted everything as it was and thought it was due to me.
I am not the person I was before the Multiple Sclerosis hit. I look back at my past self and don’t recognize him. Had I known then what I know now, I would have told him to cherish every moment, every day and not to take anything for granted.
When I had to fight, to really dig down inside of myself, just to do every simple task, I learned how strong I was. When I overcame obstacles that had stood in my way, I learned about courage. When I was finally able to look back at everything I had been through and everything still to come, I was thankful.