It wasn’t the diagnosis itself that had the greatest impact on me and my life. I made adjustments to how I do things, figured out new ways to accomplish what needed to be done and flowed with the definition of the new me. What I struggled with from the get go (and still do) is the doubt. The voice in my head that jumped to the forefront, frequently overshadowing rational thoughts. For the first time I began to worry about whether or not I could be who I wanted to be.
I grew up always believing that I could do whatever I set my sights on. My parents nourished this belief, supporting me in whatever direction I decided to head. Going off to college, spending a semester abroad, picking up and moving across the country, taking my first job, having and raising three kids – I never doubted that I could do it, that I could achieve my goals and ambitions.
Until the diagnosis. Those first years, with so many major changes to my physical abilities and redefining who I was and how I got things done, I faced it all with the attitude of “it is what it is.” But what also arrived was doubt. A nagging and relentless voice that questioned every day, all the time, whether I would be able to do something. The simplest of tasks – a trip to the grocery store – increased the voice’s volume – chanting the reminder “I have MS, I have MS.” In chorus with this broadcast was the questions “Can I make it?” “Will I have enough energy to get through the errand?” “Will I fall again this time?” “What if I pee myself?” The apprehension at times almost overwhelming.
The simple fact is that most of the time I can make it. I dredge up enough energy. I might fall, but I get back up, and a little pee hasn’t killed me yet. These things (these new “normals”) aren’t what I hate the most; that I take issue with. I hate that I question myself; my capability to do things, to believe in myself and my ability to succeed. To be strong and independent and not feel that I need to have others there to help me at all times.
A lot has happened in my life over the past few years (Disease & Divorce: Did MS End My Marriage) and I am in a better place than I ever imagined. I have three amazing children, a man that is grounded, goofy and kind who loves me unconditionally, a place that feels like home and a budding career that I am passionate about. The doubt is still there, but the voice has quieted a bit. There are now trips to the store that I don’t think “I have MS” or worry about falling. Granted the pee thing is ALWAYS a possibility but even that seems to be a bit a little less frequent these days.
I can do a wonderful job of keeping myself up at night – allowing the voice back in and the doubt is quick to take over again. It’s a simple given that I might wake up tomorrow in the midst of a relapse – where all the steps forward that I have made disappear and I am once again filled with doubt. But for the moment, while I can, I am going to do my best to shut the stupid voice up and let myself believe again. After all, anything is possible!
Thinking my new mantra should be…