50 Years of Wisdom

© LISA S CLARK 2022

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

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

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.

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)

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.