Finding Balance

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

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.

A Prayer on My Birthday

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2022

Dear God, Thank You so much for guiding, supporting, protecting, and loving me for another year. I couldn’t do Life without You. 

Thank You so much for my wonderful husband Terry, who sang to me moments after waking, and my dear 88 year old mother Ulla, who called and sang me a Swedish birthday song. My heart is so full.

In the midst of my blessings, God, I think about all those suffering in the world right now. I pray that You give strength, support, and healing to all those in need. AMEN.

💜 My Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 23:1-6 💜

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”

“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.”

“He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” 

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” 

“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” AMEN.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

This Guy.

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.

Truth

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.

March Is MS Awareness Month

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)

Young at Heart

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

This is 55. When you stay young at heart, it shows. My husband has true love, peace, and happiness in his life, and for a man, that is everything. He loves his job, and his health has never been better. Most importantly, he knows how to play and not take life too seriously. I turn 55 myself next month, and try to follow his example as much as possible.

I Knew Something Was Wrong

I’ve had a love for swimming since I was 4 years old. I learned how to swim in a pool in Pompano Beach, FL during one of our annual Florida family vacations. I later enjoyed using this pool at Forest Hills Country Club in Rockford, IL where my parents have been members since 1980. I was on the FHCC swim team and basically lived there during the summers in middle school, high school, and college. (Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Country Club)

Fast forward 20+ years to July 2016, and I am using the pool at the Princeton Gym in Madison, WI. I was just starting to get back to swimming laps, and I noticed that my left arm felt heavy and numb. I told my husband that something was wrong, and that was the beginning of a very scary time for us. My MS diagnosis came on August 26, 2016.

It is common for people that receive a life-altering diagnosis to go through a grieving process. It takes time to accept your new “normal” and to heal from the medical trauma that you endured. I am very thankful that I’ve had the resources, support, and education I need to adapt to my life with Multiple Sclerosis. I realize that not everyone has that, and I don’t take it for granted.

Before MS Diagnosis

Vail, Colorado © LISA S CLARK 2022

This photo was taken in 2003 when I attended the Kercher Family Reunion in Vail, Colorado. I had recently passed my Board Exams and had become a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Wisconsin. 

When I look at myself here, I can see the absolute fatigue (mental, emotional, and physical) that I felt behind that smile. Fatigue is the most common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, and mine started in college, along with dizziness, vertigo, and depression. I didn’t know these were all warning signs of MS. I just felt that life was so damn hard all the time. 

I crashed out in 2006 after 3 years of clinical practice. That’s no surprise considering the fact that stress is one of biggest triggers for MS symptoms. For the next few years, I tried to pivot to a new specialty in Industrial Organizational Psychology, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t regain my strength.

As my dad said to me in 2010, “it’s strange, Lisa … it’s like you make progress, but then suddenly sink in quicksand.” My dad passed away in 2011, and I was diagnosed in 2016. He would be very sad about my MS, as my mom is, but it does finally explain why I was always struggling. 

The MS diagnosis came when I temporarily lost use of my left hand and arm in August 2016. I had multiple MRIs done that showed lesions in my brain and spine which is hallmark MS. I also had multiple blood tests done to rule out other illnesses. It is a devastating diagnosis to receive, but in some ways, it has been a relief. For the past 5+ years, I have been able to re-examine my life, and it all makes sense to me now.