Overcoming MS Setbacks to Find Abundant Love on a Special Day

MS symptoms make attending a wedding difficult for columnist Beth Shorthouse-Ullah, but she perseveres

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by Beth Ullah |

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Last week, we welcomed a wonderful person into our family. My not-so-little brother got married! The wedding was beautiful — so beautiful that I couldn’t let myself feel it all in the moment. Who wants to hear the loud, ugly crier?! (I did my happy crying loudly in the ladies’ room afterward.)

The one thing I am incredibly conscious of, however, is the fact that I didn’t take pictures during the big day. Being “in the moment” while simultaneously capturing those moments isn’t easy, right? Reflecting now on that stunning wedding, I hope the professional photographer got some nice, candid shots. I don’t have any, which makes me wonder why.

I have actually been trying to be present in each moment since I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2016, but it is quite challenging. Trying not to worry about things like overheating, continence, and mobility can distract me.

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The night before the wedding, I had a massive sensory overload attack due to an ongoing heat wave here in the U.K. Then I had two more throughout the night. While I have experienced panic attacks before, they are not the same as a sensory overload attack.

I know my triggers, and I have managed to avoid many attacks by recognizing them. Unfortunately, this time, a few external issues were to blame. One was a stumble that led to a fall — impressively, I didn’t spill any of my prosecco! — and the second was that I wasn’t able to get to a “safe space.” That meant my sensory overload happened in full view of anyone who could see.

What pulled me out of it was grounding myself and using the “5,4,3,2,1 technique,” which entails focusing on the following:

  • Five things I could see: in this case, a stone, tears, my pink shoes, a lake, and plants.
  • Four things I could touch: a stone, tears, plants, and my husband, Dave.
  • Three things I could hear: people chatting, my hyperventilating (recognizing this helped), and music.
  • Two things I could smell: barbecue food and perfume.
  • One thing I could taste: prosecco.

The wedding day arrives

I’d barely had three hours of restless sleep and wondered how I would face everyone again after the previous night’s events, which left me feeling embarrassed and humiliated. By bedtime the previous night, the stress and heat had made me fully incontinent (although I think this is a chronic issue now), so I was also concerned about how I would manage it.

I had to pull myself together. It was a new day — and my brother’s wedding day. With my one-person pity party over, we proceeded to get ready for the festivities. In the back of my mind, I was worried I would be triggered again, but I was determined not to let it happen.

For me, the most beautiful part of the balmy and beautiful day in the peaceful countryside of the Cotswolds was unexpectedly getting to spend the last 10 minutes of the evening alone with the bride and groom when everyone else had retired to bed. This meant more to me than I realized at the time. These are the moments that make the MS inconveniences entirely worth it.

I immersed myself in the day, the feelings, the vibrant atmosphere, and the abundant love surrounding it all. It was beautiful. I felt it all.

While this sadly meant I didn’t manage to capture the moments with my camera, it does mean that I have vivid memories of the intense love, laughter, and happiness of the day — and that is something that can’t be taken away.

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.


Irene avatar


y haveI am old, in my 60's, a widow & would like to communicate with people in the MS community. I have had MS since 1981.


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