1. Life Effects
  2. All stories lobby
  3. Life Before and After MS: I Am Still the Same Me

Life Before and After MS: I Am Still the Same Me

Getty Images / bbtomas

I was around thirteen years old when I became aware of Ireland. The shocking news reports from Northern Ireland contrasted with the picture books of stunning images of the Irish landscape – never before had I seen such disparity.

I was hooked. I knew then that one day Ireland would become my home.

When I eventually moved there, life was like a dream. For two years, I spent most weekends and holidays travelling around the island of Ireland, seeing what I had seen in books and on TV with my own eyes.

I went to rugby matches, took up the odd behaviour of hugging telephone poles I mistook for trees and chased imaginary sheep and cattle in the middle of nowhere. I spent my life with my nose in books and was now following literary trails in the footsteps of James Joyce and William Butler Yeats.

I was living my bucket list every single day.

My life was split into “Before I moved to Ireland” and “After I moved to Ireland”.

Everything changed

Just then, MS showed up.

It did not come as silently as it comes to others. It crashed into me like a lightning bolt in a storm.

It brought with it trigeminal neuralgia, which would make me yelp mid-sentence due to the stabbing pain it caused in my left ear, eye and surrounding areas.

That was just the beginning. New symptoms – just as sticky and unwilling to leave – kept coming.

Now, my life was split into new categories: “Before MS” and “With MS”. It felt as if I had jinxed myself somehow by emigrating and living my best life.

Gone was the happy-go-lucky girl who never said no to adventure and experience whenever, wherever.

Gone were the cinema weekends of binge-watching three films a day.

Gone was the Incident Lifecycle Coordinator who could juggle many jobs at once.

Slowly, I saw myself change into someone who wasn’t me.

It took me a decade of dreaming before I moved to Ireland. I was held back by my fear that something bad might happen. Had I taken on too much by working, travelling and studying at the same time? Had Ireland turned against me?

I found myself in an existential crisis.

I started falling asleep in the cinema. I cancelled summer trips because it was too warm. I couldn’t eat or write without feeling tremors in my hands.

Finally I noticed that friends began organising activities without me.

The changes were visible

In the year following my diagnosis, I would often frantically run to the mirror to inspect my face. My consultant told me while I was in hospital that I had markedly visible facial changes and that, together with my MRI results, indicated a high probability of MS.

I had reached my lowest point. I yelled, cursed, and felt like dying for a second, hoping to feel normal again when I was brought back to life.

I had already been through the wars: two surgeries in nine months. I wanted my old body back. I felt tainted, and just not good enough anymore. Everything in my life had changed.

Looking in the mirror, I wondered when – or if – the old me would ever return.

I am a perfectionist and always carry a certain amount of fear of rejection. MS tripled that fear whenever I had to tell people my newly gained tagline: “Handle with care, just diagnosed with MS”.

Not only did I fear rejection from others; I feared rejection by myself. If I ever wanted to live life to the fullest again, I would have to begin with nurturing and being kind to myself. Each day, I had to refill myself with affirmations, telling myself: “I am still me, the core of who and what I am is still the same”.

Getting on with life

My dream took me to Ireland, and fourteen years post-diagnosis, I am still here. Life has changed. The last time I was able to go hill walking or rock climbing was before my diagnosis. I had to stop binge-watching films the year after. I exchanged those activities with catching up with friends over coffee or writing and studying whenever my symptoms allow.

Through the process I have learned it is OK not to be OK and that I would be OK, no matter what.

Like one of my favourite André Camus quote says: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer”.

I found this article:

Share this article:

You might also be interested in

Navigating the ‘New Normal’ with MS

By Trishna Bharadia

Embracing Winter with MS

By Barbara Stensland

What My MS Diagnosis Taught Me About Friendship

By Barbara Stensland