The condition crept up on me until I couldn’t ignore that something was wrong anymore. As it became harder to remember things as clearly or stay as alert in my engineering job, all the compensation strategies could only get me so far. Dinner was barely finished in the early evening before deep fatigue would zonk me out on the couch. Eventually when a friend commented that I didn’t look great and ‘what was wrong?’, I knew it was time to get answers. Years earlier, I had had a neurological episode with blurred vision, so I knew that MS was a future possibility. My GP tried to calm my fears, ‘it could be something like a B12 deficiency’ he suggested, but we decided to do an MRI as well as a blood test. My worst fears were confirmed.
I didn’t want to be at the mercy of an unpredictable incurable condition. On the night of April 19, 2016, after the diagnosis in the neurologist’s office, I remember googling wildly on my computer to see what was out there to help myself and what I could do to wrest back some control. And that’s when I found it, the Overcoming MS program, like a shining light in the murkiness. It made a lot of sense to my analytical brain. I can do this; I remember telling myself. That was four years ago.
Not every step is easy
I am not going to lie. It hasn’t been at all easy for me. The dietary aspect has been the most challenging. How do you take dairy and meat out of your diet, when they have been such a core part of what you’ve eaten all your life? A friend commented that she thought it would be a lot easier when I had five dietary-compliant things I could cook for family dinners. I recall her stretched out fingers and the repeated emphasis on ‘five things’. They were wise words. By building the repertoire, bit by bit, cooking this way has now become second nature. It is not a ‘scary biggie’ but something I can easily do. It has made a difference to me to have the solidarity of my family eating common food with me, rather than me doing my thing off on the side.
I have also found the meditation aspect a real learning. For a busy mum, with a million things to do, quietening the brain and stopping the mental chatter has taken lots of practise. Getting to the point of sitting down to start the practice was the first hurdle. How can you take time out when there is a basket of unfolded laundry just sitting there? Making sure that I am accountable has helped. At the start, I had to closely track the days I meditated. The pang of disappointment on missing a day motivated me to stay on track. And then it became easier when it was a habit. I have a meditation app now and feel quite protective of my ‘streak’.
The OMS program is very much a part of how I live. I now can’t imagine doing anything else. Thinking about staying as independent as possible living with my family and participating in their day to day lives is motivation enough.