Note to Self
This week, I wrote a letter to my younger self about being diagnosed with (and living with) Multiple Sclerosis. I speak to the me that was in college, feeling awkward because for some reason, unbeknownst to me at the time, I found myself unable to keep up with the partying and social aspects that kids that age generally count on as part of the whole college experience. Without further ado, here goes!
Life is not easy. Sometimes we are thrown curve balls. Sometimes we hit them out of the park, and other times we miss entirely. I could tell you that it’s great being an adult with the freedom to make your own choices, eat ice cream for dinner, and stay up all night partying. But the truth of the matter is that choices have consequences that you’ll have to deal with somehow. I could tell you that it’s normal to burn out on the social scene in college, even if your friends are still going strong. I could tell you that the incredible, overwhelming fatigue is normal, along with the extreme clumsiness and weird visual disturbances that you write off so easily without giving it a second thought. The truth of the matter is that you didn’t know any better, and why would you? No one at age 19 thinks that they will end up where I am now, at age 49, living with a chronic, incurable, and debilitating disease. No one at age 19 thinks that they will one day be a breast cancer survivor, and why would they? And certainly, no one at age 19 believes that her gene pool is so shallow that she would have to wade through the world of diabetes to boot. Somehow we all begin our adult lives wearing rose-colored glasses, impervious to how harsh reality can be. I wish we could all wear those glasses to shield us from the truths that exist in the real world, but at some point, you have to put on those big-girl panties and face the facts.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is that even though you might think that you are invincible, you are not. No human being is. You must listen to your body, and be proactive about caring for it, because it’s the only one you get. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts and do not hesitate to seek medical care because with all serious illnesses, early treatment is key. The world of Multiple Sclerosis is a scary one, and knowledge is one of the only things that can help it feel less intimidating. The truth is that in that world you will find a support system of friends who you consider family, only better, for the simple fact that they understand everything that you deal with on a daily basis. The most important thing you can do for yourself is surround yourself with people who exude positivity, happiness, peace, and light. Your MS will thank you because stress and negativity of any sort will manifest physically causing your MS symptoms to flare. Plus it’s so much nicer to be around people who are content rather than a whole bunch of “negative Nellies”. You are strong, but you are allowed to have moments of weakness, and it is at those moments when you can lean on the support system you have built. No one can be strong 100% of the time, and it doesn’t make you weak to express frustration, sadness, anger, or fear when you feel the need. You are, after all, only human. Just remember that those emotions are not productive and if you dwell on them, you will never be truly happy. Happiness comes from gratitude for all that you have and all that you are, and recognizing (and acknowledging) those pieces of you will always propel you forward.
My beautiful MS sisters, who came into my life exactly when I needed them most and they have not left my side since.
So live fully, despite your limitations. Live happily, despite your fear. Smile from your soul, because you are an innately optimistic person. Love with your entire being, and don’t waste your energy on those who don’t reciprocate that love. Be true to who you are, and be comfortable in knowing that you are enough. Most importantly, remember that there are no guarantees in life, and it doesn’t always follow your plans, so roll with the punches and make the best of every single day because life is fleeting… but also beautiful. As long as you are fully present you will never have any regrets. Trust me. I know these things. I have lived them. It has taken me time and reflection, plus a lot of work on myself to achieve acceptance and understanding. I did it for both of us, because we deserve nothing less.