Ten years ago, my life changed not once, but twice. The first time it changed, I had no control over what happened, and it ripped over my body like a storm. The second time it changed, I was the one in control, standing in the middle of that storm against the onslaught of my body.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago in April of 2013. The weather was the same, warm and slightly sticky with humidity. My body had become something unknown to me and my life was a dumpster fire. I was unsure of where I fit in the world as it was now, no longer at home in my own body and its unfamiliar terrain. After months of now knowing what was inside my body, I finally knew and yet, I felt more lost than I did before.
I believed I was okay, that I would be all right. I would choose joy, but it ended up being some kind of cruel joke as the storm grew around me and the dark forest of my depression grew larger by the day, the trees taking shape in my waking hours and my nighttime wanderings. I was lost within myself. I came close to taking my own life, believed my boyfriend at the time when he called me broken and let my power be taken away from me.
I remember when my life changed the second time. When I picked up that little yellow magnet off of the floor and read those six small words. Never let it be said that word don’t have power. Looking at those words was a revelation: my life is up to me.
Knowing that life had to change, that I had to change some of my habits, I set about trying to honour my mind, body and spirit. I broke up with the boyfriend (for good this time) and focused on loving myself or trying to; I needed to learn to love all of myself and that included the multiple sclerosis and the cerebral palsy that made my life difficult. That’s an ongoing process, loving all of myself, but I’m getting there.
I threw myself into workshops that would better my spirit. I took workshops on manifestation, Tarot, reading all kinds of different texts about astrology and numerology. During those workshops, I realized that the world was so much bigger than I thought it had been. It wasn’t a world filled with just MS or CP, it was a world filled with mysticism and wonder, of sights waiting to be seen and knowledge waiting to be absorbed. I was a sponge. I wanted to learn everything I could and, in the process, I learned about myself.
I learned to walk again with a cane and with that hill conquered, I started walking the MS Walk and walking has become a daily part of my life. I started doing a workout three nights a week, knowing that being active was another way that I could have some control over the storm that was contained within my body. I now workout four to five nights a week and I still go for walks. It feels like with each step, I’m taking back a bit more of myself.
The work continues on my mind. I’m working on self-love and trying to work through past traumas. I talk with a therapist and try to remember not to be too hard on myself. That’s easier said than done but therapy is helping and being open with my feelings helps too. It also helps that I’m married to a man that I don’t have to hide myself from, that he sees all of me and loves the parts of me that I have difficulty loving.
What I realized during all of the work that I’ve done on myself is that I have been living my best life and that came from the MS. It forced me to look at things in a different way and to cherish the celebrations and the joy whenever they came. I know that I lived before the MS came into my life, but from the moment I woke up on new years eve day and couldn’t walk or speak, my life path had a different path, a new trajectory that I could either fight against or follow. I chose to follow it and it has led me to the most amazing parts of my life.
When I look in the mirror, I try to remember who I was before MS and it’s become so wrapped up in who I am and my memories of self that it’s hard to separate the two. Nor would I want to. MS has taught me what really matters in life, how to truly be thankful and grateful and what to be grateful for. It’s opened up my mind to a whole new sense of who I am and the possibilities that are open to me now that I’m living my best life.
Had you told me that in ten years, I would be living the life I am now, I would have laughed sardonically at you. I never would have believed I would be living the life that I am living. I’ve had to really change the way I think about life and about the path that I am taking, and I know that, for myself, positivity and a sometimes-maniacal sense of humour is such a big help.
I don’t know what the next ten years will bring, but I am thankful that ten years ago, I looked down at that little yellow magnet and made a choice for myself.
The one thing that I’ve learned in the past ten years is the simplest lesson:
My life is up to me.