This is me the Summer of ’89 at 22 years old. I was lost and confused, but kept hearing people say, “college will be the best years of your life!” As I reached my late twenties, I heard how I was going to be “old” once I turned 30 – how ridiculous is that?!
By the time I reached 40, there was talk of being “middle aged”, and never in a flattering way. Luckily by then, I’d figured a few things out, like not caring about “they” and “them”. When I reached 50, I felt my best yet, even as people were welcoming me to the “over-the-hill” club.
It’s all just nonsense. I wouldn’t trade who I am now at 54 for myself at 22 for a million dollars. Because aging, if you let it, brings immeasurable wisdom, peace, confidence, and focus. I truly believe – life before 50 is simply research.
Since March of 1990, I have moved countless times for school and work, including twice outside the US, to Sweden and Canada. I’ve lost some items along the way, but luckily several jewels, like this needlepoint, remain. My mom made this for me as a remembrance of our wonderful New Orleans trip. It’s things like this that are simply irreplaceable.
I just enjoyed an hourlong phone call with my mom. She’s at that age when you realize that each conversation could be your last.
We’ve had a lot of adventures and fun together over the years, and I will always cherish those memories. This is a souvenir photo from a riverboat trip we took when we visited New Orleans in March 1990. We were celebrating my 23rd birthday.
During our call today, I was talking about my life with my husband, the home we’ve created, and how I am managing my MS. She suddenly became emotional and said, “I’m really proud of you, Lisa … everything you’ve done.”
Well, that beam of sunshine just filled my whole heart and spirit. There’s just nothing like a Mother’s Love.
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.
“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. 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.