One year ago today, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’ve been thinking a lot about this day over the past few weeks, remembering all the things that led me here, and all that followed.
To me, this day one year ago marked nothing less than the end of one life and the beginning of another. I remember lying on a table in a too cold room after a lumbar puncture and thinking clearly: “Now I am a person with MS.” With little warning, all the cards of my life were thrown into the air and it changed in ways that I’m still trying to understand.
These days, I think in terms of before and after that moment. Before, I was healthy. Now, I’m technically not. Before, I intended to get old in the same way that everyone else does. Now, I’m aware that I may take another path. Before, I was just like you. Now, I’m different. Sometimes when I see an old picture of myself, I’m envious of the version of me who doesn’t see this coming.
I won’t lie. The first few weeks were not good. There was a little bit of crying. There was quite a bit of drinking. There was a lot of time spent feeling sorry for myself. Probably about what you’d expect.
But as I look back over the past year, I can honestly say that it’s been a good one. I feel healthier and happier than I was a year ago.
The “healthier” part is easy to explain. I’m eating better and I exercise more. I stretch every day. I’m doing more of the things you know you should do but never really get around to. There are issues with my brain, that is true. But in the day to day ways that I can actually assess, I feel really good.
The “happier” part is harder to explain. I know MS is serious and I keep waiting to feel depressed, but I don’t. I’ve had a consistent feeling of well-being throughout. I’m sure better health and better sleep are part of it. I also feel more connected to family and friends and even to strangers, which is something that matters a lot to me. But most of all, I chalk the happiness up to the good things I’ve had in my life all along. I just appreciate them all so much more now. When I run and play, or take a walk, or touch my toes, or tuck my son into bed, or let the sun into my office, I’m thankful. Every time. I don’t take anything for granted, so every day is filled with moments of joy.
There’s certainly a sense of loss, too. There are things I can’t do — probably won’t ever do — that I could have done before. I mourn those things and the life that I had until a year ago. And I do have blue nights of wondering what might happen in five years, or ten. But when I look back over the past twelve months, I really feel o.k. I’m happy and optimistic. As simple as that. If MS was cured tomorrow, I would still have been profoundly changed by the diagnosis and my experience with this disease so far. There are difficult things about it. But weirdly, there are also ways in which it’s been a change for the better.
To friends and family and strangers who’ve found me here: thank you, so very much, for your messages of caring and solidarity, from that day to this one. It’s hard to imagine going through this without your support.