Multiple Sclerosis has taught me a lot about myself. It has taught me how to adapt to change and shift, many times on a daily basis, to the unexpected. No one likes to have their life disrupted by the unexpected. It makes our daily life hard to manage and plan out, but with MS you learn that it’s okay to change plans; that it’s okay to call up a friend to let them know you have to cancel today because your legs aren’t working or the fatigue has gotten too intense to handle; that it’s okay to acknowledge the struggle.
If you don’t learn to go with the flow, the flow will swallow you up in the process. I have had to learn to be okay with not being able to do it all myself. Ms. Independent and Ms. I-Can-Do-It-Myself have become Ms. I-Need-Help and Ms. Wobbly.
Did I like the lesson? Absolutely not! Was it easy to swallow my pride and allow others in so they could help? Absolutely not! But it was a lesson well learned and one that I’m still learning to this day.
I can remember the first time I started using a cane to help me walk. I was at the neurologist’s office for an appointment knowing full well I was struggling with my balance—holding onto walls just to make it down the hallway without falling down—when the news became a reality. She said, “You need to get a cane.”
My first thought was, “No way, I will not give in to MS, and besides, that would be so embarrassing. I don’t want to draw attention to myself.”
Then, as if she could read my thoughts, she said, “It will be much easier for you to use a cane than to have to deal with a broken bone due to a fall.”
I thought to myself…broken bone or broken pride…hmm! I chose to break the pride. That day I bought a cane. Over the months ahead I learned to adapt to its use. Some of those changes were easy, some were hard, but all in all they were great lessons to learn. I finally conquered my pride…or so I thought.
A year after I started using a cane regularly, I was back in the neurologist’s office due to more falls and instability. I remember that day just as vividly. She said to me, “You really need to consider using a walker. It will help you by giving the added support you need.”
I was devastated hearing that. I knew she was right, but in my mind all I could think about was how I was letting MS win. Yet again, the neurologist was right and I learned an even bigger lesson. I learned that I still had pride in me that I was holding onto.
I wrestled with the same thing transitioning to a wheelchair. It seems like each new life-changing moment has hit me pretty hard, yet with each bruise, with each fall, with each shift, I have learned something new about myself and about life. Lessons that someone can only learn by going through the struggle.
I could fumble and stumble my way through life denying the battle I’m in or simply adapt with the changes when they come. It doesn’t mean I’m giving in or that MS is winning, it simply means I’m strong enough to know when I need help and that I’m not too prideful to receive it. That makes me the real winner.
The journey ahead will have its rough places. There will be cracks in the road, speed bumps, dips, terrible sinkholes, and mud puddles but I can tell you from experience that no matter what comes your way, you will be able to handle it. You are strong enough and brave enough.
The biggest lesson I have learned through it all—the biggest thing multiple sclerosis has taught me—is that shift happens.