Making Sense of My MS

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2022

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

No More Playing Dumb

I have a vivid recollection of not studying for AP Chemistry exams my Senior Year in high school (1984-1985). Why?! Because when I got A’s, I was teased by the popular boys in my class. I realize now that this was based on their own insecurities, but it speaks to the times – girls were supposed to be sweet, attractive, and not overly ambitious or smart. If you went to college, your main goal was to get a MRS degree.

I really didn’t embrace my intelligence until I went to graduate school in 1992. It took moving to California for me to forge a new path and identity for myself. Everyone but my mom Ulla tried to talk me out of it. Thank you, Mom – I couldn’t have done it without your support.

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.

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.

Incredibly Accurate

Highlights for me, the Thinker…

Deep thoughts, big questions ✅
Intellectual curiosity ✅
Ability to find & create meaning ✅
Ideal collaborator, the Adventurer ✅
Perpetual student✅
Inquisitive mind ✅
Sense of wonder ✅ 
Depth of perception ✅

“Seek out the company of the Adventurer types, who provide the perfect counterbalance to your introspective and analytical nature. The infectious energy and playful spirit of the Adventurer remind you to embrace the joys of creation, and to not be afraid to get your hands a little dirty in the process.” ✅

Enjoying Social Media

© LISA S CLARK 2022

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.

Strength

Pompano Beach, Florida © LISA S CLARK 2021

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.

Be Yourself

Lund, Sweden © LISA S CLARK 2019

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

This is one of my favorite quotes because it delivers a very important truth. If you want to live a peaceful, joyful, and powerful life, you must embrace your authentic self.

What is your authentic self, you ask? It is simply who you were created to be in this world.

The process of discovering your authentic self is not so simple. This is because most of us have been influenced by our families, schools, and communities since a very early age. As we grow up, there are pressures to fit in. We receive strong signals that it’s not okay to be ourselves.

So over the years, we become someone that makes others happy, while we ourselves feel empty and lost. We feel like we’re faking it all.

If you do decide to embark on a journey of self-discovery, know that it will take work. But as the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.

Once you discover your authentic self, you begin to see that what makes you unique in this world is where your value lies.