I Am What I Am: Embracing the Highs and Lows of MS

Columnist Jamie Hughes shares moments of proud glory and silly defeat

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by Jamie Hughes |

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If there’s one thing those of us who have multiple sclerosis (MS) know all too well, it’s that life requires balance. Fellow columnists and I have written about the need to find a happy medium when it comes to mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Granted, it’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with an exacerbation or its lingering effects. No matter what happens, we have to put ourselves back together, reestablish whatever passes for “normal,” and keep on keeping on.

Sometimes the mental struggles can be more revealing than the physical ones. Let me give you an example from my own life. Last weekend, I wrote my latest review for The Englewood Review of Books. It took about three weeks longer to read the book than it normally would because it was a stout academic treatise (“The Roots of American Individualism: Political Myth in the Age of Jackson“).

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When in graduate school and hyperfocused on my education, I could have knocked this book out in a week, but now that I’m pushing 45 and have quite a few more things on my mind — well, let’s just say it was slower going. But I read it cover to cover, marked it up with every color highlighter I owned, and thoroughly digested it. I sat down on a brisk Saturday morning, coffee at the ready, and a steady stream of chill music, and hammered the review out with a couple of hours of solid work.

And you know what? I was actually pretty John Brown good, as my family says. My editor agreed. He told me I did wonderfully at engaging a challenging book.

Boom. Mic drop. Self high-five. Insert all the funny gifs here.

Then, the same day I got the attagirl, I did something so incredibly stupid that I still can’t believe it.

I walked into the office as heavily laden as any mule that has ever ascended the Andes, bearing my laptop bag, purse, lunchbox, coffee, and phone. I dropped it all with every intention to set up shop, but instead, I was sucked into a quick conversation. Then another. Then another. Eventually, I ended up grabbing my lunchbox and taking it to the refrigerator in the kitchen while speaking with another co-worker.

Later, when I’d sat down to work, I noticed my lunchbox still sitting on my office’s bench. Confused, I picked it up — certain that I had put it away an hour before. Well, I had walked something in the break room, but it wasn’t my lunchbox.

It was my purse.

Yep, I’d taken my purse — which, in my defense, is roughly the same color and size as my lunchbox — and put it in the fridge. I stood there with the door open in disbelief. But there it was. Chagrined (and thankful no one was in there to recognize my mistake), I made the swap and scooted back to my office with a very cold pocketbook in tow.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I’d experienced a textbook moment of yinyang. That morning, I underwent “a process of harmonization ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things,” thanks to a book review and a bowl of day-old spaghetti. And now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I think it’s taught me something about myself as an MS patient and human being.

Each of us is a glorious mélange of positive and negative traits. We experience highs and lows, wins and losses. Sometimes, they’re our own doing. Other times, situations are forced upon us, and we must make the best of what we’ve been dealt. That glowing praise didn’t make me any better or worse as a person. It was just a positive thing that made me feel good about myself. And the goofy mistake with my handbag didn’t make me a dolt, unworthy of love or respect. I’m me no matter what.

The same is true for MS. It didn’t make me saintly or imbue me with some greater insight than the able-bodied among us. It also didn’t make me less than. It is simply a part of who I am now, as much as my brown eyes, long-fingered hands, and love of trivia.

Some days, I won’t be at my best because of it. But there are days when I feel MS drives me to be something better than I could have been without it. It regularly teaches me that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. It’s also made me kinder and more patient than before my diagnosis.

So while my disease can sometimes make me feel like everything’s gone topsy-turvy, I must admit it’s brought a kind of balance to my life. I’ve made my peace with it, and doing so has allowed me to attain a certain level of peace with myself, too.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Sara avatar

Sara

Hi Jamie!
Just wanted to drop a comment and let you know that I simply love this! I was diagnosed in 2022, obviously took me completely by surprise.. but I feel like you've perfectly written how I'm trying to shape my mind to think about this disease and the lifelong journey that I'm now on! Thank you for sharing.. and sorry to hear about your cold purse! ;)

Cheers to a balanced 2023 with hopefully more good days than bad!
-Sara

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Jamie Hughes

Sara, thank you so much for this comment. I truly made my day! It's not always perfect. It can't be. We just have to learn how to work it all together long term. Cheers to you as well as 2023 begins.

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