I am frequently commended for my demeanor. For my strength amid pain and adversity. For my optimism and happy disposition. For making the most of my circumstances.
I love my steadfast faith. I love my fierce determination. I love my decision to combat pain and adversity with hope. I love the light I carry and the joy I derive in illuminating the world.
But lights inevitably dim. Hope wanes. Faith falters. Life with an unpredictable, progressive, and painful disease cannot help but invite darkness. Whether transient or persistent, its arrival is imminent. Our challenge lies in the ability to love ourselves in its presence.
This became my challenge.
I am blessed that self-love grew from self-loathing. The ultimate irony is that the same catalyst inspired both hatred and healing. That synergist being my 2010 diagnosis of MS.
I had multiple sclerosis (MS) by then. I felt sad. I felt shocked. I felt scared. I felt shame that I could not escape the pain or depression that followed. My faith began to waver and hope was harder to hold. I began to lose myself amid appointments, infusions, procedures, and eventual progression. I became a shadow of a former self. I detested the pain, the numbness, the foot drop, and the falls. I detested myself. I downshifted to survival mode. I was on empty. Everything and everyone else became optional. I was low on fuel and something had to give.
That something was me.
I made a choice to change my perception. Reality may be harmless, but perception is everything. I worked with a therapist to align the two through my cognition. I stopped blaming myself for my health challenges. I gave myself permission to receive grace. I began to repair the damage I had inflicted.
What began with such effort, slowly became my normal. A soulful joy settled in and my purpose revealed itself. And then came the love. The love I so desperately sought from others was now my own. It is impossible to base joy on the litmus of another. It can be painful to let go of those who expect as much. It is a necessary evil if we are to thrive.
You are worth the journey.
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.