This is a photo of me as a pom pon girl in high school. During my high school years, I remember having tons of energy in all areas of my life. It was when I started college that I started to experience mental, emotional, and physical fatigue that simply intensified as the years passed. Fatigue is the most common Multiple Sclerosis symptom.
During my freshman year in college, I also started having significant symptoms of depression, another common MS symptom. The summer before my senior year, I also started having dizziness and vertigo, and this triggered panic attacks. I had lived with anxiety since I was a child, but this was on a whole new level.
I’d like to say that I sought help for all of my symptoms, but I did not. I shoved it all down, and forged ahead to graduate school. I set a goal for myself to get a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and to become a Licensed Psychologist. At the age of 36, I reached that goal. But I was beyond exhausted. The year was 2003.
I was eventually diagnosed with MS in August 2016 when my left arm and hand went numb. I finally had a symptom that I couldn’t ignore or push through. I went to my doctor, and she immediately sent me to the hospital to get multiple MRIs done. The results showed lesions in my brain and spine – classic Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple blood tests, to rule out other medical conditions, confirmed the diagnosis.
I am happy to report that function returned to my left arm and hand, and that I have been stable (i.e. no new MS lesions) for the past 6 years. Getting the MS diagnosis was scary as hell, but my life finally made sense to me. The diagnosis also made me determined to enjoy all areas of my life moving forward. As I indicated on my Profile, I am Reclaiming the Joy of My Youth.
There is nothing harder than losing a loved one. Only God can give you the strength, peace, and comfort necessary to handle the unbearable sadness and suffering you feel. I experienced this myself 11 years ago when I sat next to my dad’s hospice bed in his final days at home. In just 3 weeks time, my dad was hospitalized, diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (as a nonsmoker), brought home with hospice care, and then passed away. It was a complete shock to me and my family. As my mom said at the time, it was a nightmare.
My dad and I were alone in his room on this Saturday, June 11th when he said to me, “I am ready to go, Lisa.” He passed away 4 days later on June 15, 2011. By that time, I had learned to cling to God. Not lean on, cling. And in the month that followed, my Faith was renewed, as I experienced incredible strength, peace, and comfort despite incredible pain. All By The Grace Of God 🙏🏻
I’ve enjoyed helping my husband Terry find more balance in his life. He has always worked hard, and now he knows how to rest hard too. Most men need some encouragement to take care of themselves in healthy ways. They need genuine love, affection, and appreciation that allows them to be vulnerable and self-loving.
People talk about abolishing “toxic masculinity”, but that won’t happen until men are allowed and encouraged to show their sadness, fear, and fragility as we women do daily. There’s a reason men don’t seek help with their mental and physical health – they are socialized from a young age to just toughen up and figure it out alone. And that is a recipe for disaster.
Whenever I’m having a difficult day, he goes out of his way to be silly and make me feel better.
I captured one of these moments last fall. On this particular day, I was feeling very scared about an upcoming doctor’s appointment. He threw on his silly hat, dropped to the ground to play with my feet, and started singing the Rocky Theme Song.
And it worked. I felt instantly better.
Humor is so important in a marriage. You never know what life is going to throw at you, and being able to laugh together, even during the serious moments, is a beautiful thing.
As difficult as it was being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2016, it also Woke Me Up. It pushed me to take full ownership of my life, and to set long overdue limits and boundaries with everyone in my life. I now only allow genuine, supportive, and kind people in my inner circle. And the freedom I feel is tremendous.
There are 1 Million people in the United States diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, 2.3 Million people Worldwide. Many people, like myself, can go undiagnosed for years, so these numbers probably underestimate the actual number of people living with MS.
“Multiple sclerosis is a disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord which make up the central nervous system and controls everything we do. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but we do know that something triggers the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage to myelin, the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers, disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of communication signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different and these losses may be temporary or long lasting.” (Sources: Image from Multiple Sclerosis Association of America; Text from National Multiple Sclerosis Society)