This is a current photo of me at 55 years old and a photo of me at 5 years old starting Kindergarten. Ohhh, the things I would like to tell that sweet, happy girl. I’ve had to learn most things in life the hard way. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. Over the past five years, I have worked very hard to reclaim the joy I felt as this young girl. And I move forward continuing to make the second half of my life, the best half of my life.
Making Sense of My MS
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.
To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, go to www.nationalmssociety.org
This is my husband Terry dancing up the sidewalk to retrieve our newly delivered beach chairs after returning home from work. We finally have steady warm weather here in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo is a still image courtesy of our Ring Video Doorbell.
Unplug from Social Media
Social Media is an excellent tool for communication and connection. But sometimes you just need a break from “the noise”. Unlike our iPhones, unplugging is essential for recharging our human battery.
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
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
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.
Just Be You
Trying to be what you think people want, need, expect, or like is EXHAUSTING.
Pay attention to those people that accept you for you.
They are PRICELESS.
Young at Heart
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.
Enjoying Social Media
You don’t need to know someone online to be kind, generous, and responsive.
You will have more joy if you treat everyone in a positive manner.
It’s no different from life offline.
I enjoy my days much more when I interact this way with everyone I encounter – strangers, friends, and colleagues.
My favorite moments in life are when I connect positively with someone and share a genuine human exchange.
And you can decide to do that anywhere – even online.
Note: I originally wrote this pre-pandemic, but it certainly rings true now when many people are missing their family, friends, and colleagues, or just normal human exchange in their communities.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.“
It was 5 years ago that I started having a strange numbness in my left arm and hand. I had just started swimming laps at my gym, and I knew something was really wrong. By the first week of August, I couldn’t do anything with that arm and hand. After multiple doctor visits, blood tests, X-rays, and MRIs, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on August 26th. It was the biggest shock of my life.
Looking back now, I realize that I started having MS symptoms in college, such as vertigo, fatigue, and depression. But I didn’t know it was MS at the time. It took paralysis of my arm and hand in 2016 to get my attention and into an MRI machine that showed lesions in my brain and spine. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, function has returned to my arm and hand, and I have been stable on medication since that time.
But I never know what tomorrow brings. And that is where the strength comes in. It is terrifying having Multiple Sclerosis. So I lean on God for all my strength, joy, hope, and peace. And because of that, I THRIVE. This photo is me at 17 years old when I was vacationing in Pompano Beach, Florida in 1984. For me it captures the determination I feel to face all the challenges in my life going forward.
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