When we are faced with difficult challenges that are simply a part of life, accepting them can be overwhelming. Our minds and hearts are often instinctively flooded with questions of the, “Why me?” variety.
As human beings, we are predisposed to crave comfortable, conflict-free lives—like the ones seen in advertisements on the pages of lifestyle magazines.
Difficulty is never celebrated as the gift that it is.
Since my diagnosis of relapsing multiple sclerosis 15 years ago, I’ve had countless challenges related to illness and loss, experiences with which my mother could empathize first-hand. After all, she herself lived with the disease from the time she was about 23.
But she never sat around asking herself, “Why me?” or, “Why us?” or, “Why had we been dealt such a tough hand when others seemed to glide through life with health and ease?”
The question that she asked and encouraged me to consider was, “Why not me?”
Challenge comes in countless shapes and sizes, compelling us to embrace pain and let it shape us to become stronger, more empathetic, and more understanding of others in every situation.
That’s not to say that I always take my own advice. Of course there are flickers of time when I give in and feel sorry for myself for a few breaths or a few hours. But I never let myself go to sleep feeling anything but blessed. Living with relapsing multiple sclerosis has been a tangible motivator calling on me to rise to the challenge, again and again.
Everyone in this life has a similar adversary, a condition or situation that is a painful teacher. Maybe it looks like a struggle with finances. Perhaps it’s a fallout with a family member. Nobody knows exactly what someone else is facing, and the struggles that others must overcome may be more difficult than we could ever imagine.
So instead of asking, “Why did this horrible thing happen to me?” I try to constantly ask myself, “Why am I faced with this opportunity to grow and evolve? What is the work that I am called to do here?”
I have a richer perspective on life because of my relapsing MS. And I am forever thankful for the support and love that has surrounded me on this journey. I was gifted with an opportunity to empathize more closely and more personally with the challenges that my sweet mamma was faced with every day. Those afternoons during my teenage years—the ones where I was frustrated and confused about why she couldn’t move more quickly while on a shopping trip. Well when I was diagnosed with RMS, I finally understood. Everything suddenly shifted into clear focus. I got it. And I knew that I was not alone.
In addition to inheriting my mom’s genetic makeup where neurologic disease is concerned, I also received her passion for striking up conversations wherever I may be. Our family has always been of the “strangers are simply friends we haven’t met” persuasion. And on more than one occasion during the past few months, I heard myself opening up to a stranger sitting next to me, making mention of my relapsing MS during the course of conversation. One encounter was in the waiting room of an imaging center. Another was at my favorite Italian restaurant. And today, the encounter occurred at the nail salon I frequent for my pedicures.
In each situation, the person was in the process of working through a possible diagnosis of RMS. And each conversational exchange ended with them saying, “I think I was supposed to meet you today.”
What a gift.
So. Why me? Why have I been given this opportunity to connect with others, to relate on a level that I could never imagine—had I lived a “healthy” and “normal” disease-free life? What a glorious opportunity to force myself to surrender to circumstances beyond my control and find a way to make it all work.
I don’t really have time to lament what might have been if things worked out exactly as I envisioned, the perfect life I may have had if only I didn’t have relapsing MS. I have more important work to do. And I’m sure you do, too.
Want to read more stories like Katy’s? Visit the Sanofi Genzyme website for real stories and perspectives from others living with relapsing MS.
The preceding article is content provided by our sponsor Sanofi Genzyme. The views and opinions expressed in the content above are not the views and opinions of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, LLC.
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