At 17, I began a 20-year odyssey with endometriosis. The doctor’s platitudes and disbelief were astonishing and leveled my sense of self.
The findings of severe endometriosis served as a painful “I told you so.” My life became a whirlwind of physical and emotional upheaval. For a young woman, there are few things more debilitating.
I was raised to be silent with my struggles. I was taught to smile politely and listen. I was told to reply that I am well, thank you. This was not done with malicious intent, rather a desire for good. The unfortunate truth is that I hid myself. At a time when I felt most alone, I learned to remain that way.
At 50, I welcome the unwell. My diagnosis with multiple sclerosis came at 40. My growth to that point had been nothing short of exponential. I was fortunate to have completed some faith-based workshops, team-building seminars, and other wellness forums. I took pride in my long-term sobriety and relationships with friends and family. I met my MS head-on.
But I still feel that little girl. She is beside me. Now with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, I fight in her honor. I am caught between 17 and 50. The memories are visceral, yet today I am whole. I am enough.
I am often reminded to be gentle and kind to myself. As silly as it sounds, chronic disease and pain can rob us of the ability to do so. The virtues we so easily show others often are lost on ourselves.
One of my greatest adversaries has been guilt. I am a work in progress. I feel guilty that I am sick. I feel guilty that I require such expensive medications. I feel guilty that I can no longer do things. I feel guilty at my ever-growing disability.
And then I stop. I remind myself that guilt is a crippling emotion. It renders us immobile. I want to move and I want to grow. I want to learn and I want to do better with that knowledge.
Multiple sclerosis and chronic pain continue to be unsuspecting teachers. I am surviving and thriving while taming my demons. I am learning to coexist with even the most uncomfortable of physical and emotional pain.
And in doing so, I wave goodbye to the little girl and embrace the woman.
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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.